These days, people who engage in healthy habits, like planning their meals, watching sodium, fat and sugar labeling, finding time for daily fitness, getting health screenings and generally "taking care of themselves," are considered health champions....and that's a good thing. Being aware of health dangers that lurk and being proactive in health is also a good attribute. On the other hand, becoming obsessed and worried constantly that you may be harboring some disease, or you might catch some serious virus, or some symptoms you have signify the worst possible disease, is not usually a good attribute. And if this behavior pervades your home life, your professional life, your social circle, and degrades the quality of your life, then you may be health anxious.
Take a look at the following statements and see if any apply to you:
- My friends tell me that I talk and worry about my health all the time
- I stand in front of the mirror for significant amounts of time examining and scrutinizing my body for signs of health issues
- As soon as I hear about a disease in the news, I am convinced I might have it
- I spend a lot of money on home screening tests and continue to re-buy them even after I test negative (no disease)
- I spend hours on the internet researching diseases I am convinced that I have
- I am convinced my doctor is missing diseases I may have
- I change travel plans, social plans because I am convinced I may catch something at those events or locations
- My parents, boyfriend(girlfriend), husband (wife) say my obsession is interfering with our relationship
- I obsess about my children's health constantly and re-strict their behaviors to help them avoid health risks
Any one of these behaviors can indicate that you are health anxious. More than one would certainly indicate that you are having coping issues, and if any of these behaviors have persisted for more than 5-6 months, you really may have health obsession and anxiety. Certainly, being in touch with real health issues is a good habit; over-reacting by obsessing about the issue, after you have done all you can to safeguard your health, is another sign of an anxiety disorder. It is very important to recognize symptoms of early disease or to engage in behavior choices that minimize risk for disease. It's a whole other story if these worries consume the better part of your day, your life.
The best thing you can do is be well read on a topic, especially if you suspect that you may have a worrisome disease, or an early warning sign of a serious illness. You should then turn to a reputable physician, who inspires confidence, for screening and an assessment of your observations and health concerns. Beyond that, making healthy lifestyle choices - eating a balanced diet, getting adequate sleep, engaging in fitness daily and getting routine screening tests that are age appropriate (or needed based on family health history) is the best way to ensure that you are healthy.
What happens, though, when you have a suspicion that something is "really wrong" and modern science does not seem to confirm your suspicions? Read my nest blog entry, The Best Way to Investigate a Health Worry.
Published On: June 22, 2009