We all are guilty of feeling a little paranoid health-wise at the moment, especially now that the ongoing Covid-19 media coverage is bombarding us with messages of impending doom from all angles.
For some people, though, this phobia of illness is deep-rooted at the best of times – and the world’s current hysteria is only amplifying these persisting fears.
Whether you’re a long-term compulsive germaphobe and symptom-searcher, or are one of the many who have fallen victim to this obsession only recently, thanks to the growing Coronavirus threat, here are a few things you should know.
What Is Health Anxiety?
Health anxiety is when you spend so much time worrying that you’re ill, or about getting ill, that it starts to take over your life (or worse still – make you ill.)
Also called “illness anxiety,” or formerly the more stigmatized “hypochondria,” it’s an obsessive and irrational worry about having a serious medical condition. This anxiety disorder is marked by a person’s deluded or extreme interpretation of physical symptoms of illness, as well as the constant fear that their health is under threat somehow.
But there are ways that you can balance this concern for your health – a concern which we, for the most part, advocate – ensuring that it doesn’t spiral into a paranoia-fuelled obsession. This serves as no purpose to yourself or anyone.
Health Anxiety: The Irony of Worrying Too Much About Your Health
Ironically, the chronic stress many of us now have over our health – thanks to over-exposure to sensationalist media coverage as well as being arm’s length from being able to Google search our symptoms – it’s no wonder many of us worry so much about staying healthy, that we damage our health in the process.
But as we have discussed copious times here at Selfish Darling – stress. is. not. your. friend.
From sending your hormones into a spin, to provoking compulsive behaviours, burnout, breakdowns, insomnia, or depression, that unpleasant, fluttery nauseating sensation you get in your chest has many damning health consequences. So too much stress over your health is sure to have an ironically unwelcome effect of some sort.
So what’s the best thing to do? You get symptoms. You stress. More symptoms emerge. You stress more. How can you break the cycle?
Health Anxiety: Tips On How To Cope
Take basic health measures
Health doesn’t have to be so complicated! Before you panic-buy supplements or over-the-counter medications (or indeed, toilet roll?!), if you don’t have a specific, legitimate health concern, then consider taking a back-to-basics approach to health.
Eat well. Move your body. Drink plenty of water. Sleep. And take care of your mind with tried-and-tested hacks such as meditation, ASMR, and therapy.
If you are genuinely taking care of your body and mind to the best of your ability, then you can start to rationalise obsessive thoughts as they emerge.
Recognise the symptoms of Health anxiety itself
This includes knowing when a “symptom” is actually most likely from the stress itself.
No, your headache is most likely from your constant worrying – not a certain virus, or a brain tumour. You feel tired because you’ve been lying awake all night, not necessarily because your immune system is under any sort of attack. And those unnerving heart palpitations or sweaty palms are classic anxity symptoms – not the exaggerated scenarios you are taunting yourself with in your mind.
Learn to recognise your anxiety symptoms so you don’t assume the worst each time they come about. Get to know your body, and your usual sensations, so that if something truly is out of the ordinary you can assess yourself with a clear head.
Keep a gratitude journal
I know, we’re super into practising gratitude here at Selfish Darling. But trust us – it really can work wonders! Consider noting down the things you are grateful for each day in a gratitude journal. If health tends to be on your mind a lot, then focus on this.
Note down that you’re sleeping better these days, or that your hormone health has improved, for example. Maybe you are feeling physically strong in your workout sessions right now, or taking good care of your skin.
These things may seem trivial or nothing much to write home about – but we tend to only appreciate good health when it comes under threat. So if you noticed you haven’t been worrying about a particular health issue recently, then make a note of it!
Enjoy this lack of concern for once. Recognise what is working well for your body right now – your nerves will thank you.
COVID-19 – stay safe darlings
Of course, this message to let go a little of your health worries comes at a strange time. We all ought to be extra careful at the moment due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
That being said, panic doesn’t help anyone. Listen to the advice from the government and if you are staying as calm, healthy and hydrated as possible, avoiding unnecessary travel, human contact, or stress – and maintaining meticulous hand hygiene, then you don’t need to worry.
Make the most of this enforced alone time by getting creative, reading, practising yoga or meditation at home, catching up on sleep – or indeed, Netflix – and just taking some general time out.
It would probably also be a good idea to incorporate some sort of digital detox into this routine – as although we all want to stay informed, too much exposure to the media – especially at present – can do us more harm than good.
Health anxiety: The bottom line
If your body is sending you signs that you’re ill, it’s normal to be concerned. Especially right now. But health anxiety is marked by the constant, irrational belief that you have a symptom which you perhaps don’t, or that your real symptoms must be of a severe illness.
Panic can get to us all, darlings. But we can fight back!
Be cautious. make an effort to stay well. But health anxiety is an unfortunate consequence of the current chaos, as well as our society of health extremes in general – and goes beyond having a normal concern for maintaining health. In fact, it actually has the potential to put you at greater risk.
So stay calm, stay at home, and take care of yourself!
Are you feeling pretty stressed and isolated right now? Let us know in the comments and we’ll reply with our best tips to staying both physically and emotionally healthy or let us know what you like to do to keep sane!