In a previous post I asked, do you suffer from health anxiety? Then I outlined some of the characteristics of health anxiety. In this post I’m touching on the way health anxiety can affect not only the sufferer, but also the lives of those around them.
A person with health anxieties worries a lot and because of this the immediate family is likely to be affected. Worry can induce sympathy from others but it can also give rise to frustration and angry words. If others in the family are vulnerable to anxiety it can also have a contaminating effect. They pick up the thread of the concerns and begin to worry too. Beliefs about the risk of illness or disease are shared and the family becomes distressed.
Social occasions may be cut back or stopped altogether. It isn’t unusual for people with health anxiety to feel a social distance from others. The fear of illness can even prevent the development of intimate relationships. But isolation can be something of a two-way street, for as much as the person with health anxiety avoids others they too may not want to be trapped with a person who is known to constantly complain about health issues.
Attention to tasks, whether in terms of work or study, is another area likely to be affected. Concentration may lapse as thoughts continue to drift to health issues. Activities may be stopped or interrupted because of some fear of contamination, or a fear may come to mind causing extensive internet searches. Time that should probably be used for other things is spent arranging clinical appointments, sitting in waiting rooms, or traveling to and from medical centers.
It’s clear that health anxiety can be a distressing and all-consuming condition. It is also something that affects healthy people as well as those who have one or more diagnosed conditions and where ill health and health anxiety co-exist quality of life tends to be poor.
So how does health anxiety develop in the first place and what are the factors that maintain it? I’ll be attempting to answer these questions in my next post.
Published On: July 22, 2014