Most people worry about their health at some time. Usually people worry when they experience physical symptoms, and most of the time, these worries go away. People who experience health anxiety are excessively worried about and preoccupied with having a serious illness when there is no medical evidence of them having the illness. These worries may affect their lives in very significant ways, leading to intense anxiety, panic attacks, feeling as though they cannot cope, or sometimes even depression. They may spend a lot of time researching symptoms on the Internet, seek reassurance from others, in particular medical professionals, or examine their body for possible signs of illness. This can lead to them feeling more anxious and preoccupied.
People who experience health anxiety usually experience several of the symptoms and exhibit many of the behaviours listed below:
- Physical symptoms such as chest pain, general aches and pains, sweating, trembling, headaches, numbness, and tingling.
- Interpretation of body sensations as indicating severe illness.
- Physiological arousal such as increased heart rate, sweating, trembling, gastrointestinal disturbance etc.
- Checking behaviours and increased focus on the body.
- Reassurance-seeking from doctors.
- Reassurance-seeking from family and friends.
- Spending a lot of time finding out about illness.
- Avoiding things to do with illness.