Now more than ever, folks are hyper-aware of potential health issues. In many ways, such a trend can be quite positive. Awareness can support beneficial, preventative measures. However, of course, there is no benefit to living your life in fear. This kind of obsession can be the start of a mental health disorder called hypochondria.

Hypochondria often starts in early adulthood. It can also emerge if a person of any age has undergone an illness or lost someone to an illness. Anxiety about your health can, paradoxically, cause its own physical symptoms, e.g. body aches, digestive disturbances, etc. The presence of these symptoms creates a cycle that is essentially a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Common Symptoms of Hypochondria

Obsession

  • Relentlessly checking yourself for signs of any illness
  • Frequently visiting your doctor
  • Chronic online research of perceived symptoms
  • Making your health a constant topic of conversation

Withdrawal

  • Never seeing a doctor for fear of getting a frightening diagnosis
  • Avoiding any person, place, or situation you believe could make you sick

Catastrophizing

  • Viewing any and all potential symptoms as a sign that a major illness is a cause
  • Not trusting the results of medical tests — especially when they are negative

4 Ways to Cope with Hypochondria

1. Set a Research Time Limit

Your brain is wired to protect you. Therefore, if you find multiple search engine results that say you have nothing to worry about, they can’t cancel out a single (perceived) negative result. The longer you search, the greater the chance you will feed your anxiety.

Set limits. If you feel compelled to look up a symptom, set a timer. You may also want to stop all searching once you have explored, say, five resources.

2. Find a Self-Checking Balance

Plenty of people — particularly men — frequently ignore troubling symptoms. As we’ve been discussing here, hypochondriacs land on the other end of the spectrum. Neither extreme is helpful for optimal health. Put in the work to move toward a middle ground. Accept the reality that we dwell in an uncertain but do not let that cause you to be ruled by fear. It can be very useful to talk to a therapist during this balance-seeking effort (see below).

3. Be Pro-Active

If you want to focus on your health, why not come from a place of positive action? When you feel the urge to worry or fixate, do something good for yourself instead. You might drink some water or do a full-body stretch or practice some breathing exercises.

In a larger sense, a positive counter-step could involve signing up for a yoga class or finding a running partner. As you commit more time and energy to preventative measures, this can result in a more confident mindset about your overall well-being.

4. Be Self-compassionate

Let’s say you’re looking in the mirror and feel certain that you see something on your body that looks “off” or unsettling. Then imagine it was your best friend telling you this. How would you speak to them? Most likely, you would gently talk them down from the ledge. You’d guide them to a practical place and perspective. With all this in mind, why not be your own best friend and treat yourself with the same compassion and logic?

Seek an Outside Perspective

Hypochondria can roll down a mental mountain, picking up speed. To avoid an avalanche of anxious thoughts, it helps to have some proven coping skills. The ideal place to cultivate these skills is anxiety therapy.

Your regular sessions are where you can explore your helpful and unhelpful patterns, beliefs, and habits. Working side-by-side with an experienced guide is a proven path toward new approaches, perspectives, and solutions. If hypochondria is impacting your life, let’s connect soon for a safe and confidential consultation.