Our bodies are “noisy” and at times, unusual physical symptoms might raise concern about whether a medical condition is responsible. In health anxiety, or hypochondriasis, one can become preoccupied with internal sensations, such as a pain, stomach ache, or changes in heart rate, and assume that they are signs of serious illness despite medical reassurance. Harmless but uncomfortable bodily sensations can become alarming and stressful, causing fear that starts to dominate day-to-day living. Worrying about health can take on an obsessive quality and lead to monitoring of symptoms and multiple doctors visits, which themselves can become quite costly. Struggling with these concerns can lead to significant avoidance of activities, situations, and objects that might provoke certain physical sensations and anxiety about these symptoms.
Potential signs of health or illness anxiety:
- Irrational and excessive concern that one has a serious illness
- Engaging in bodily “checking,” such as taking temperature, monitoring blood pressure or heart rate, and scanning the body for symptoms
- Preoccupation with bodily sensations
- Spending a large amount of time searching the internet for information on symptoms
- Multiple doctors visits
- Frequently seeking reassurance from others
- Avoiding objects (e.g., medical shows, articles) or situations (e.g., exercise, caffeine) that increase anxiety or are believed to make the condition worse
Contact Us Now
Dallas CBT specializes in treatment for Health anxiety (hypochondriasis) in children and adults. Contact us today at 214-305-2110 or fill out the contact form below to receive more information about treatment. We offer both individual in-person or online therapy options for clients struggling with health anxiety (for more information, see our Online Therapy page).
Cognitive behavioral treatment for health anxiety has been shown to be effective and successful within a relatively short number of sessions. Our evidence-based treatment program for health anxiety involves cognitive-behavioral and exposure techniques. Treatment will generally consist of 12 to 16 sessions, although this varies dependent on each client’s needs.
Exposure and Response Prevention and other cognitive behavioral techniques are especially effective for treating health anxiety or hypochondria. These approaches involve reducing health-related obsessive thinking through cognitive restructuring, where one learns to challenge the validity of distorted thoughts, and gradual exposure to fearful thoughts, sensations, and situations. Through exposure, one learns that feared consequences are unlikely to come true and that anxiety decreases naturally over time and, after repeated exposure, will stay down. Imaginal exposures, which involves imagining a feared situation, and interoceptive exposures, which involves confronting feared bodily sensations, play an important role in therapy. The overarching goal of this therapy is to reduce fear and distressing thoughts and decrease avoidance of objectively safe thoughts and situations. This treatment may cause short-term anxiety, given that you’ll be facing the fears that you have been avoiding; however, it is the most effective way to gain long-term freedom from anxiety.
In therapy, you can expect to:
- Learn about causes and maintaining factors of anxiety
- Identify the role that thoughts play in the anxiety process while learning to frame thoughts differently
- Engage in gradual and systematic exposure to anxiety-provoking thoughts and situations
Treatment is tailored to each individual, with their own experiences and specific concerns influencing the content of each component of treatment.