Health Anxiety Treatment
Health anxiety, or hypochondriasis, is a relatively common reason for seeking Cognitive Behavioural Therapy at the Ändern Centre. Health anxiety involves a fearful preoccupation that one might have, or develop, a serious illness based on a misinterpretation of physical signs or symptoms. This preoccupation causes significant distress and disruption to sufferers’ lives.
Those with health anxiety may find themselves consistently seeking the opinion of a GP, often utilising a number of them if not reassured by the first opinion. Sometimes sufferers will escalate to seek specialist advice from consultants expecting to be referred for tests, or present regularly to hospital A & E departments. This exhaustive process can obviously be costly in terms of money and time, whilst also extremely stressful on the individual. Health anxiety sufferers often complain they feel that people aren’t taking them seriously, however health anxiety is a real problem that usually responds well to CBT.
As with other anxiety disorders, its presentation is often varied, and indeed some sufferers might actively avoid doctors' surgeries and medical consultations, for fear of stressful news, contamination or sitting in the waiting area.
Individuals with health anxiety often consistently seek reassurance, perhaps from medics, family members or friends. Others may spend large amounts of time on the internet trying to match their symptoms to some illness. They can also become very focused on bodily symptoms or sensations. However, this reassurance seeking and bodily focus gives little or short relief from the worry, and in fact usually further heightens the health anxiety.
At the Ändern Centre treatment for health anxiety involves helping to challenge unhelpful thinking styles, reducing maintenance behaviours such as reassurance seeking , and learning to manage our feelings when encountering feared and avoided situations.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is viewed as the psychological treatment of choice for health anxiety by the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) and the Royal College of Psychiatrists. There is strong evidence that cognitive and behavioral techniques can bring about significant reductions in symptoms.