Does it ever feel to you as if your anxiety follows the situation that you’re in? Imagine watching a horror movie. The shock moment occurs and leaves you feeling wrung out. Well it may seem this way but what’s actually happening is the movie hasn’t made you feel bad. The reason you feel upset is due to the thoughts and interpretations you’ve made about it. The evidence for this comes from all the people who may have watched the same movie but who feel entirely unaffected by it, or may even have enjoyed it and want to see it again.
The point of all this is to underline the fact that it’s our perception of a situation that influences how we feel about it. We get anxious when we perceive something is threatening. In how to relieve your health anxiety I suggested that you write down the costs and benefits to you of attempting to do something about your health anxiety. If you’re reading this as a result of that first post my guess is that the benefits outweighed the costs. So now it’s time to apply a bit more self-assessment. Working by yourself, or with a close friend or partner, I’d like you to list some of the common beliefs you hold. These represent unhelpful thinking in health anxiety and serve to maintain the problem. To get you started here are a handful of the more common thinking patterns or beliefs. Add more to your list as you feel necessary.
High expectations. There’s nothing wrong with expecting a good level of service from health professionals but might yours be unrealistic? Do you feel that they should offer a definitive explanation for every worrying bodily sensation you have? Do you walk away feeling they don’t know their job and are dismissive of your concerns or they may actually misdiagnose you?
Uncertainty. Do you find you are preoccupied with nagging uncertainties about what’s happening to your body? When you get reassurance does it only last a short time before the doubts and worries start to creep back in?
Black future. Do you believe your future is most likely to involve some awful health outcome like cancer, a rare debilitating disease, a stroke or something along these lines?
Selective. Faced with a number of relevant facts do you focus on the one’s that support your beliefs but overlook those that are equally or possibly more compelling but in a different direction?
Insanity. Do you fear you’ll go crazy or lose it because your anxiety and related discomfort is so all-consuming?
Keep hold of your list and look out for the next post on the topic of relieving your health anxiety.
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Jerry Kennard, Ph.D., is a chartered psychologist and associate fellow of the British Psychological Society. Jerry’s clinical background is in mental health and, most recently, higher education. He is the author of various self-help books and is co-founder of positivityguides.net.