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by Ken Goodman, LCSW

On-Demand Webinar on this topic with Ken Goodman, LCSW now available.


As she stares at the ceiling, trying to fall asleep, Dina ruminates on one statement from her doctor, “Brain tumors can grow at any time. Come back in six months if you’re concerned.”   She tosses and turns, “Why did he tell me that? If there was nothing wrong, why would he say come back in six months?”  More questions race through her mind, “Why do I keep getting headaches and dizziness? What if the doctors missed something? Why did he tell me to come back if there was nothing wrong?”  Dina feels so anxious she gets out of bed and searches the web for answers.  As she rereads the same articles about symptoms of brain cancer she begins to feel lightheaded.  “Why do I keep feeling this way? Do I really have brain cancer? Is this really happening?”  

The good news is, Dina does not have brain cancer or a brain tumor.  Dina has a health anxiety.  There are two types of health anxieties: Somatic Symptom Disorder and Illness Anxiety Disorder, formally known as hypochondriasis.  Many people with health anxiety are often unable to function or enjoy life due to their fears and preoccupations.   They obsess over bodily functions (breathing, heartbeat), physical oddities (skin blemishes), and physical discomfort (headaches, stomach aches, lightheadedness). They might worry about a specific organ (brain, heart) or a disease they heard about on the news or at work (MS, diabetes).  They are preoccupied with the belief that they have, or are in danger of contracting, a serious illness. Many will purse doctors and tests repeatedly for reassurance, but are reluctant to seek mental health treatment since they believe their condition is medically based.   

Why does health anxiety persist despite reassurance from doctors?

Although some refuse to be examined by their primary care out of fear of discovering the worst, seeking reassurance from doctors, insisting on repeated medical tests, and visits to the ER and urgent care, are more common in health anxiety. Being reassured by the doctor that there is no serious medical illness brings relief -- temporarily.   The vicious cycle quickly resumes as new thoughts and physical sensation surface, followed by interpretations of danger, anxiety, and more visits to doctors to resolve the uncertainty. Soon the cycle ignites again with the next alarming thought.  

The False Alarm

Car alarms are set off when a criminal breaks in but imagine how problematic it would be if the siren blared each time a pedestrian walked by.  The car alarm would be misinterpreting innocent people as dangerous criminals. 
With health anxiety there is the misinterpretation of discomfort and normal bodily sensations as dangerous. The body is very noisy. Healthy human bodies produce all sorts of physical symptoms that might be uncomfortable, unexpected, and unwanted, but not dangerous. 

Normal sensations in the body that can produce fear and worry include changes in visual acuity, heart rate, blood pressure, saliva levels, depth of breathing, balance, and muscle tone,  just to name a few.  These are normal and harmless bodily changes, but when a person believes they are symptoms of a terrible disease, it causes anxiety.  The sensations are real, but the beliefs are false.

Why do people misinterpret sensations in their body and overestimate danger?  

Sometimes misinterpretation is due to assumptions about an illness. For example, “My cousin died of cancer. It’s only a matter of time until I get it.”  Or, “viruses sped easily. People in Africa are dying of Ebola. It could easily spread to the U.S.” People with health anxiety might hold rigid definitions of good health, perhaps believing that any discomfort whatsoever means bad health. 

Anxiety is a protective mechanism and scanning the body for an illness seems like the right thing to do to protect ourselves. However, when we are preoccupied with something, we tend to notice it.  Last month when I was looking to purchase a new car, I suddenly began to notice every car on the road; the make, model, and the color.  Previously, I didn’t pay attention.  Looking for symptoms makes you notice subtle sensations you might otherwise ignore. When you become preoccupied with bodily sensations, those sensations become amplified and last longer. 

This is when it gets tricky.  

Each scan of the body produces uncertainty and doubt, giving the imagination opportunity to create stories.  As you imagine the worst, your body’s alarm system sounds off in the form of symptoms of anxiety (racing heart, tightness in the chest, difficulty breathing, jitters, tingling, lightheadedness, nausea, stomach discomfort, sweating, headaches, etc.) giving your imagination additional fuel to create great works of fiction.   The symptoms are real. The thoughts are false. 

The Most Effective Treatment is Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

Since it is possible to suffer with anxiety and a serious medical condition, medical problems must be ruled out with a thorough physical exam. Once this is accomplished, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is the most effective treatment for any form of anxiety including health related anxiety.

CBT is a therapy model that focuses on our cognition, the way we think, and our behaviors, the way we act. The main concept behind CBT is that our thoughts about a situation (the fear of ALS) effect how we feel (afraid and anxious) and how we behave (scanning the body, going to the doctor). We tend to assign meaning to specific situations (tingling means we have MS).  It’s not the actual situation causing our anxiety, but the meaning – accurate or not. And, when you have anxiety, you give your thoughts a lot of meaning, and thus, a lot of power.  

CBT aims to help you overcome fears by correcting irrational thoughts and changing problematic behaviors.  By acquiring a certain mindset, you can learn to approach anxious situations differently and learn to tolerate discomfort and uncertainty. Health anxiety can be overcome with the help of a skilled anxiety specialist and CBT.  You can find a therapist on the ADAA website.  

On-Demand Webinar with ADAA Board member Ken Goodman, LCSW  on Health Anxiety - What Is It and How You Can Overcome It

Additional ADAA Resources by Ken Goodman:

How to Get Over It: Fear of Vomiting - ADAA blog post
Overcoming the Fear of Vomiting - ADAA on-demand webinar
Overcoming the Fear of Driving
- ADAA on-demand webinar
Overcoming the Fear of Driving - ADAA blog post

Additional Resources:
Health Anxiety Is Way More Than Being A Hypochondriac — And It’s Way More Common Than You Think
This Is Why Being Anxious Makes Some People Puke - Article,  Tonic.vice.com, December 6, 2018 


About the Author

Ken Goodman, LCSW, treats anxiety and OCD in Los Angeles.  He is the author of The Anxiety Solution Series: Your Guide to Overcoming Panic, Worry, Compulsions and Fear, A Step-by-Step Self-help Audio Program, and Break Free from Anxiety, a coloring, self-help book for anxiety sufferers. Ken Goodman is an ADAA board member and Clinical Fellow. Visit Ken's website.

 

I have previously wrote a comment about my health anxiety coming back really bad after having a baby now 8 weeks old I am getting all these new symptoms including etopic a beat chest tightness back pain then today I’m getting a feeling like my throat is numbing and closing in wondering if anyone else has suffered with these symptoms ?

I also get these symptoms and the symptoms keep increasing the more anxious I get. And it’s always different every time even though the anxiety is the same throughout. It started with my shoulder and back pain which is cause by bad posture but then after I google symptoms of heart disease I started getting those too one by one. The more I knew the more symptoms I started feeling. And I’m so well aware of the fact that nothings wrong and everything I believe is stupid and just irrational. Everybody feels these normal bodily pains all through their healthy lives. It’s just that I’ve become extremely sensitive to each and every sensation

This anxiety issue is terrible, I found relief and calmness by accepting death. I have a new made up sickness nearly every week, most of the time I know I do not have a certain sickness but my brain doubts any thought I have and decides I have it anyway. Sometimes trying to sleep is impossible because I think that relaxing feeling is me dying.

I did have a health scare a couple years ago. Due to that, it has really pinned me down to the point that everything I feel in my body I go right to Dr Google to "in my mind" try to stay proactive. This is proving to be very exhausting and at times I feel almost crippled mentally due to the mental Olympics that I put myself through. I know its not helpful or healthy to try to play Dr., but I struggle with just ignoring things. Currently am seeing a therapist, but still keep going back to those unproductive thoughts. Any other effective suggestions? Thanks for any helpful replies.

I have a very similar issue, and it's great to read Ken's articule, which scenarios are very on pointe. I was diagnosed with an eye infection recently, but the doctor said i will be fine so long as i listen with his instructions with regards to the medicine.

I know that overall, i feel much better, but i have harping thoughts - am i truly recovering or is it the steroids doing the work? what if i the infection comes back once i'm off from the medication. It's making my heart race, im checking my eyesight every few minutes, and panicking to the extent that i am paralysed with fear. I have troubles sleeping at night, and these days, i am required to stay home and just rest. But with every waking moment, i am focusing on my issue, and noticing every little itch on my eyelash, as a sign of the infection returning.

It's really amazing, as i read the comments of others, i find that the fears are unwarranted, and reading mine, i find an uncanny parallel...I hope that all of us are able to snap out of this vicious cycle, and it's actually comforting to know of others encountering the same issues.

Do you have any advice for how to deal with teenage daughter's severe health anxiety? She has just started CBT but is looking for reassurances hourly and it is so distressing for everyone.

I've had an anxiety disorder since early childhood. I'm in my mid fifties now. My entire life has revolved around my anxieties. My health anxieties came later in life after watching both parents die from cancer. I had extreme episodes of fear when ever a test or checkup was due for anyone in my family or myself. I have been working with both a psychiatrist and psychologists for years. It's a slow process, yet it all depends on your determination to "fight back". One of my favorite methods is to challenge my fear to get worse. Yes, GET WORSE!!! Lets face it, we fear our fear. Right? What happens when you challenge your "fear" to get worse? Where can it go? I know up! Maybe a bit, but if you take that leap of faith and truly challenge it to go up, it tends to go down. It feels completely wrong to do this, but it works. When we panic, we tend to "run". Like a dog, it will run after you! Don't run! Dare the anxiety to get worse! It cannot kill you. It never has. Right? Dare it to go out of control, but like the bully when challenged, it is not so tough after all. It is in our minds, but in actual reality it wont get out of control. I have so much I can share on this site with my many, many years of dealing with this. Doing nothing feeds into it. Start challenging your fear. Dare it to rise and rise. It's amazing how this feedback works. When it has no where else to go or to chase, it fades.
What a wonderful community of people here. We all can get through this. We're not alone....

Hello. Basically, my health anxiety started when I was about 6 - at which time I cried everyday by virtue of my worries. I thought I had a brain tumour, heart problems and problems with my eyes at age SIX. Aged six I thought I was dying. since then, it calms down for a period of months, then I have a really bad "episode" every few months for a couple of weeks in which something sets me off and I get ridiculously anxious. The worries range from Bowel cancer to heart problems to my most common - brain tumours. The worst bit is, during these episodes I tend to live as if I am dying, and have even planned ahead to what happens subsequent to my death. It is really horrible, and I am going through one of these aforesaid "episodes" now. Just wanted to see if anyone experiences similiar symptoms to mine? I also recently got diagnosed with ADHD and depression so that is another thing to consider.

I also feel like I’m getting a heart attack at any moment. Even though I’m healthy and a non smoker and my bp is mostly always normal regardless of me checking it multiple times in the day. I only have back pain because of bad posture and I ultimately just assume it’s my heart and it’s been going on for years. I google symptoms and the next thing you know I’m suddenly getting all these new symptoms I just googled and I don’t even think maybe my body is just making this up. I just think of the worst. And it’s driving me and my family crazy. Before my heart anxiety I always thought maybe I have brain tumor. Every time I got a neck pain. And the funny part is that I know I just have neck and back pain Bc of horrible posture. I even exercise and eat healthy. I don’t have any serious pains I just start imagining sensations in my body and start getting tense until I just lose it and get a panic attack. And this happens almost every day.

I am so scared. I’m 18, I’ve always been someone who worries. I’ve always had anxiety about my health, but not this bad. well, back in April of this year, I started to feel dizzy. I didn’t go see my doctor because I was scared of horrible results. it got worse. I felt like nothing was real, I felt detached from reality. my mom finally made me a doctors appointment. I went. my B12 was low, which was making me have all this anxiety I was feeling. I was looking up B12, saw something saying that it “could” lead to dementia and Alzheimer’s. I automatically freaked out. my memory was fine, absolutely fine before I read that. after I read that, I’ve convinced myself that I’m losing my memory. I know it’s all in my head. I can remember almost everything about Mötley Crüe, The Runaways, all the bands I like. a bunch of memories of my life run through my head. but I still feel I’m losing it. my anxiety is taking over my life. I don’t know what to do. I’m so damn scared. I know my anxiety is making me feel this way. I just don’t know what to do.

I've read through a bunch of the comments and it's comforting to see the relationship with this type of anxiety that we all have. I've had health anxiety on and off (3 times) over the last 12 years. I'm on my 4th time this year, starting back in the beginning of September. This entire year has been stressful for me, between losing jobs, gaining jobs that weren't fun at all, doing jobs that were fun but very demanding, visiting family that I haven't seen in about 3 years, and then getting the job I've always wanted which just happens to have a crazy schedule, leading to sleep deprivation and a more sedentary life style. One night I was just laying around, it was about 3AM, and suddenly I felt a strange flex in my chest, then the rapid fluttering. I had experienced this before, but not since 2016. It was Atrial Fibrillation. In 2016 it was caused, so I was told, by a LOT of drinking (Holiday Heart). So why was it happening this time? I had been stressed, sleep deprived, I did drink a decent amount of coffee, and I had just eaten 14 pieces of bacon for the hell of it (LOL). Regardless, I knew what it was and I was pretty chill about it. I went to sleep, hoping it would cure itself. When I woke up the next morning it was still going. That was my first strike of anxiety. I got up, did a stretch and it spontaneously stopped and my heart went back into rhythm. Just like that. I didn't take another thought of it... at least until 2 weeks later when I had another AFib episode, this one only lasted 2 minutes. But it was enough to set me over the edge. I started looking up causes of AFib and that rapidly threw me down the rabbit hole. Heart Failure... Sinus Node problems...blah blah blah. I started concentrating on every little thing (as I have done in the past with health anxiety), "Oh man, my heart is only beating at 55bpm ... that's way too slow for me". In any case, it's been hell. I've got my physical tomorrow and I'm hoping to get some relief if my brain will allow me to believe what I'm told. Deep down I know I'm fine, and the anxiety is only exaggerating things. AFib can happen for whatever reason, it's good to get your heart checked out, but I honestly doubt there's anything wrong with me at 32 years old with no history of heart issues. High Blood Pressure being the worst. So yeah, It's nice coming upon this thread and reading everyone's experiences with health anxiety. I wish everyone the best, as I do myself, as I sit here with a foggy head, thinking my brain isn't getting enough oxygen due to poor blood circulation. haha!

Hoping all turns out well for everyone!

Continuing from my previous post, I started reading online on how to treat it and avoided googling my symptoms. Started meditation on this app called calm and reading bookings on happiness. I believe the reason for all with health anxiety is because we are all fixated with our body (which I am sure everyone is aware of). I read somewhere that we should only be focusing on our body symptoms 20% of the time but I believe for all of us who is dealing with health anxiety, we are having like 99% of our attention on our body sensation. Try to focus on your toe now with 100% of your attention and see how it feels. When our attention is fixated on a part of our body and looking out for a symptom, there is a high chance that we will discover something. For me, I get better over time through 10mins meditation every night (this has nothing to do with religion). Also. whenever I have a negative thought, I will tell myself that it is a negative thought and push it out of my mind. It get better over time guys! Trust me! Sorry that I don’t have a step by step guide on how I got better but it sort of like improve over time. I am not a doctor and I think if you are feeling unwell, you should consult a doctor and if the doctor says it’s okay, then it probably should be fine! (I think I have seen more than 5 Doctors, cardiologist - who ran a CT scan which is really expensive but the result only calm my mind for like a week) I am Glad I am about to find back this page and if I recall anything, I will be sure to come back here to add on! Good luck guys!!

I have been going through the comments and I can totally relate. I am 36 and until May this year, I went through life like I am invincible. I used to relish stressful situations, particularly at work, and prided myself on being able to bring out the best in me.

About eight months back, I started experiencing twitches in my right arm. The fingers on my left arm tingled a bit. I decided to investigate. After a bunch of tests, I discovered that my spinal cord was getting compressed in the neck area. That was a shock, to put it mildly, and my life turned around. Nevertheless, I rallied and did all the right things and ended up getting surgery three months ago to relieve the compression. The procedure went off well and the doctor told me to forget about it and just live my life. However, I have been so anxious and stressed out since my diagnosis that I have a whole bunch of new symptoms - palpitations, weakness and the scariest of them all - twitches all over the body. I went to google and immediately concluded that I had MS or ALS. Which made my anxiety worse and the symptoms worse, which in turned convinced me further that I had some horrible Motor neuron disease and that I am going to die in 3 years. After two hellish weeks during which I relentlessly googled (I now hate Larry page with a passion), I discovered that anxiety could be behind all this and decided to relax. But it is SO difficult to practice this. Once a week I relapse and have some sort of a panic attack and ruin all the progress that I make. It is set off by something as simple as a twitch in my arm (the symptoms aren’t gone and may take several months). The problem is, anxiety symptoms don’t suddenly go off after a couple of days of being cool. Which makes it so so challenging to get out of the vicious cycle. What seems to help is - exercise (lots and lots of walking), yoga and meditation. (I haven’t gone for anxiety meds yet as I am scared I will end up being dependent on them). I try a few other tricks too. For example, I decided to rename ALS to Absolutely Lovely State of health so that every time I think I have ALS I can tell my idiotic brain that I am actually in super health. Still not a week goes by without morbid thoughts. This is indeed the battle of my life.

Anyway, I hope to come back to this forum a few months down the line and tell a more positive story. My love and best wishes to everyone else on this forum going through this shit. Power to you all. Together we can beat this. We can win.

Reading through these comments is the first time I have not felt alone in almost a year. My health anxiety has gotten so bad that the once seldom panic attacks have been replaced by almost constant panic that is always in the background and trying to take over my body nearly every day. I am constantly dizzy and feeling like I'm going to faint, and don't know what sensations are real anymore and when/if to trust my body. I am so attuned to every small thing that is happening inside me and I immediately catastrophize and think I am going to die or pass out. Objectively, I know nothing is medically wrong with me and this is all in my head, and a result of a variety of other stressors going on (e.g., having to move away from my husband for work to a place with absolutely no physical support system; having my parents be recently diagnosed with cancer and other chronic health problems). I find myself grieving the life that I will not have because I am convinced my days are numbered and that I will be dead by some illness that no one has yet identified. I am working on trying to manage the anxiety through therapy and exposure-work. I know something is happening because I keep changing my conceptualization of how I view my anxiety and panic, and then my symptoms morph into something new or different. It is like I am fighting this monster that is constantly evolving and won't relinquish it's hold on me. It is eating me alive, ruining relationships (because I can talk about nothing besides the panic), and no matter how motivated I am to fight this thing, it just won't fade away. I am scared to go on SSRI's, as the primary side effects are somatic symptoms (like nausea and dizziness), and I am afraid this will just worsen my health anxiety. I also feel like such an incompetent professional and imposter because I am a mental health provider who has literal done this work with my own patients and can intellectualize everything that is happening to me. But it doesn't matter. This panic and anxiety and feel like I have completely lost control of my mind and body, and fear these sensations will never go away.

As bad as this might sound it's so comforting to know there are other ppl out there fighting and winning there personal battles with anxsiaty/depression disorders.
I personally have been suffering with anxsiaty going on 20 pluss years due to childhood/teenage/adult trauma.I am currently 28 year's old and only in the last 10 or so years has it been really prevalent as a disorder that no amount off alcohol or drug abuse in my mid teens/early 20's could truly mask I'm now your averages run off the mill dad with 3 children and a server anxsiaty disorder that comes and goes as it pleases or when trigged by anything from a nightout to palpitations witch subsequently leaves me house bound in bed hideing from anything that could stress me out for weeks on end (thank god I'm self employed) the hole time listening to every single heart beat breath niggling little thing that will be the thing that does me over in. All to come out the other side alive and well wating for it to happen all over again. This is no way to live and i urge anyone reading this to go and seek help NO!! one should have to live there day to day lives wile being a victim off there own mimds..i apologise for my poor grammer English was never a strong point

This is a lovely article to read! So well written! I'm a long time sufferer of health anxiety and it's horrendous. I'm so super sensitive that I feel every sensation in my body and generally associate it negatively. I catastrophise all the time and I'm exhausted. I have two children and I constantly worry that I will leave them without a mother! Everybody around me has a significant illness (I directly work with three people with cancer). I'm just not coping at all currently. I try and prepare my children for the worse which, they don't understand at 3 and 4 years old and I feel terrible doing it but I want them to know how much I love them. To scared to go to the doctor's as well. I have gotten a few minutes of reassure from this article for which I am grateful. I just wish I was brave and normal. X

I've been recently diagnosed with somatoform disorder. A kind of health anxiety disorder where my brain finds and obsesses over a disease and then produces physical symptoms. I always have been anxious about my health but never as obsessed as the past month. I used to vape as a healthier option to smoking, however my family managed to convince me to quit the habit as it has some adverse effects (cough in chest). I didn't really bother about it because the cough slowly dissipated as i exercised more. However, last month i got a nasty bout of acidity, which hurt the left side of my chest so hard that i was very surprised and scared. Instead of checking the doctors i decided to google my symptoms and of course Dr google said heart attack. I'm 26 years old without any prior heart diseases but i started to fear that i had a heart attack. I was convinced that i was going to die that day and i stayed awake all night. I went to a physician the next day who checked on me and diagnosed me of acidity. However i wasn't convinced. In the meantime, the severe acidity had caused a sore throat and i was coughing again. My ecg results came out without any problems. I was perfectly healthy. But then, why am i coughing again? Did my cough return? Do i have lung cancer? Do i have throat cancer? Is it COPD? I obsessed on and on and everytime I googled i found a new symptom and a new disease. My acidity came back, i was always sweaty, always felt sick and was always coughing. I went to a pulmonologist who said that I only have a minor cough from acidity. That man specialises in lung but i decided that i was right and he was wrong. Now that i knew that i don't have a lung disease, i was sure i have a throat disease. I googled throat disorders and sure enough i had all of them. Not just one. I went to another physician. He's like family to me and I trust him very much. But he also said that i have no diseases and i was perfectly normal. I remember i broke down in his office and started crying. I couldn't understand what's wrong with me. My blood tests came and everything was perfect. That's when I decided to go take a psychiatrists help. He gave me antidepressants and anti-anxiety meds and believe it or not in 3 weeks as i am writing this comment, i feel a lot better. I still get anxiety bouts but i say to myself it's not real, don't worry, take deep breaths.

I hope in the next weeks to come, my anxiety fully ceases to exist and i become normal again.

Do you worry that you may have or could acquire a serious medical illness? Do you constantly research disease symptoms on line? Do illnesses like cancer, heart attack, and multiple sclerosis scare you? If so, join ADAA board member Ken Goodman, LCSW, as he explains what health anxiety is and how you can overcome it. This live webinar on Saturday, December 7 at 1:00 pm EST will include a former health anxiety sufferer and will offer a Q&A opportunity. There is a $10 fee to register for this live webinar with all proceeds benefiting ADAA's free public educational resources. Register Today: https://members.adaa.org/store/ViewProduct.aspx?id=15211485

What do I do if I have a loved one with this but they get angry if you try and suggest it?

Male, 42, USA...

I am worried there is something wrong with my heart & that all of these medical experts and professionals are missing it. Just about every morning I wake up with a sense of dread and doom, like this will be the day. I have tingling in my arm, leg, back, and sometimes head. All of these tests, labs, images and negative results have not assured me that I am not at risk for a major medical event. I cannot believe that anxiety and stress can do this to a person. How this 'thing' manifests itself physically is truly terrifying and debilitating. There are days when I feel like I'm just going to collaspe and die in the street, then an hour or so later it's like it never even happened. For four years this has plagued me, and an endless list of possible explanations as to why has not alleviated it at all. It feels like each one is the first one. When it comes on, all of the possible (or in my case probable) ways to die come to the forefront. Four years later...I'm still here. This realization alone should give me permanent peace, but strangely it has not.

I know depression is not contagious like chicken pox, but it seems it can somehow affect someone living with a depressed individual. I'm now afraid of every single ache, twinge, twitch and spasm that occurs in my body. These are the hallmarks of health anxiety, or what the old folks used to call hyperchondria. Somewhere along the line of this ordeal I have become aware-and afraid- of my own mortality. It's not that I'm afraid of dying; it's leaving this world at an early age and leaving my kids.

Thanks to countless articles about the 'signs & symptoms of X' or 'these foods are not good for you (although at one time they were), I'm convinced I have every disease known to man!. How did I let myself fall into this trap? Even when i weighed 370 lbs. I was NEVER worried about my health because I never smoked, drank more than moderately, and walked everywhere I went without being tired, sweaty or winded. That episode on Oct. 25 2015 really changed my life. It would also seem that all of the loved ones lost prior to that begun the real change and I never realized it. All of the grief I should have expressed was just pushed aside, and I allowed it to bubble to the surface as something else. There are days when I feel like this something other than anxiety or depression. Yet, at the end of each day, I'm still alive. This is perhaps the most frustrating aspect of this affliction: 'OH MY GOD! I'M DYING!/Well, what to make for dinner?'

One consolation that seems to help me 'cope' are the thousands if not millions of people telling their stories on many online forums like this one. It's like looking in a mirror! These poor people describe the exact same scenarios, sensations & symptoms as myself & everyone else! A vast majority of them say it happened just out of nowhere: sitting at home, watching TV, out with friends...then BAM! Just...like...ME! I once read that this affliction can present itself when a person is in a good place in their life and are ready to deal with whatever trauma or grief they may have endured but never addressed. I will totally agree if that is in fact what we all here are suffering from on a daily basis. Well Wishes to everyone.

Please join ADAA board member Ken Goodman, LCSW, as he explains what health anxiety is and how you can overcome it. This live webinar on Saturday, December 7 at 1:00 pm EST will include a former health anxiety sufferer and will offer a Q&A opportunity. You can register here: https://adaa.org/webinar/consumer/live-webinar-health-anxiety-what-it-and-how-you-can-overcome-it 

Thank you, the ADAA team

Ever since I my grandma passed from a brain aneurysm when I was 10, I’ve had bad health anxiety. I can go years with my anxiety well managed, but, if I don’t keep busy regularly, my anxiety comes right back. It’s been bad; I’ve been freaking out about hypertension and I worry that my BP is dangerously high and I’m afraid to get it checked again. I’ve also been obsessing over my pulse and paying close attention to it. I can feel my heartbeat sometimes too. These symptoms only appear when I’m going through bad episodes of anxiety. I made a doctor appointment because I’m tired of feeling this way. I’m very nervous; my white coat syndrome improved greatly when I was busy and now, with some scares I’ve had, it’s back, with great intensity. I fear that my BP will be so high, that they will have to send me to the ER. That’s a scary thought, but, I want to make sure everything is okay. I’m tired of feeling this way. I cried because of this rut I was stuck in. My life was getting so much better, now, it’s just tough.

Reading all these posts from everyone on the one hand makes me feel somewhat comforted to know that so many others can relate to the torment I've been through (and only people who have been there understand that torment/hell/torture are not overstating the issue)...and on the other hand just makes so sorry that all of you have had to also go through this. I'll be praying for relief and true peace for you all.

One thing I will recommend that has been a game changer for me -- direct exposure to sunshine. Research has already been pointing to the relationship between sun exposure and levels of the extraordinarily helpful vitamin D3 sulfate (not to be confused with the kind of vitamin D3 you can take orally which does not provide the same kind of health benefits). More recently, research is showing that there is a STRONG relationship between proper serotonin levels and anxiety (or depression).

I came across this benefit accidentally. I knew that people were starting to recognize the relationship between sun and vitamin D so I started to "lay out" in the sun for 15 or 20 minutes a day to try and boost those levels. But after a couple weeks I noticed the darndest thing. It was like I had *waves* of calmness come over me out of the blue and completely out of my control. As if someone took my anxiety dial and just turned it down on me. In fact, it wasn't until I felt it removed that I realized just how high my anxiety levels had been.

Now, it isn't that some of the same thoughts wouldn't come up, but when I was in that "good" place mentally it's like I'd just say "eh, I'm sure everything will turn out OK if I wind up needing health treatment," instead of my typical "I'm going to die!!!!" As this (dealing with these thoughts calmly) was so out of place for me it was almost amusing when I felt myself respond in this new way.

So, for anyone reading this who is dealing with any kind of anxiety...depression...panic...whatever, who is not also regularly getting exposure to the sun I URGE you to at least try making it a habit for a couple weeks to see if you get some assistance from it. At the very least, getting your levels of vitamin D3 sulfate up will help your immune system greatly (which helps keep your body humming along better in any case).

One big point here. What you're wanting is to primarily increase your exposure to UVB rays (the shorter rays that have less skin penetration but are responsible for burning with too much exposure)...not UVA rays (the longer rays that penetrate deeper and cause suntan). Generally you need the sun fairly high in the sky (say, from 10:00-2:00 roughly) to obtain these beneficial rays, and if it's overcast you will not get enough UVB rays to stimulate the production we're looking for.  

In winter (or if you live somewhere where this isn't practical) you can get similar benefits from indoor tanning with some BIG caveats. Most tanning beds are made for just that -- tanning. So they want to maximize UVA rays to allow a lot of tanning with less chance of burning. These are what are called "high pressure" bulbs and not what you want (these are often in the "fancy" beds). What you're looking for are "low pressure" bulbs which are often in the most "beginner" or "plainer" tanning beds. The company Sperti also makes a UVB lamp for home use (their phototherapy lamp) if you can afford one (ebay has used ones at a discount). As an aside, UVB exposure has also been huge for helping people with some types of Lupus and psoriasis (life changing in some cases). 

A big point -- you aren't looking to get a dark tan with this process (being tanner actually makes the process take longer going forward). You're just looking for a few short minutes exposure if in a tanning bed or maybe 4 or 5 minutes each "side" if lying out in the sun.

Now, does exposure to UV radiation increase your chance of skin cancer? Yep. Apparently it does. However, if done in a careful manner you're primarily just somewhat increasing your chance of basal cell carcinoma (generally easy to whack off if it happens). Also, increasing these levels of D3 sulfate are thought to provide greatly increased protection against INTERNAL cancers. Looking at research regarding the higher levels of internal cancers in areas where less sunshine is taken in make me think a little higher chance of skin cancer is easily worth the trade off if it gives me extra protection against internal cancers -- especially given the other benefits of vitamin D3 itself and especially the calming I get from the increased serotonin.

Anyway, not sure if that'll help anyone else but it's been huge for me. As I said before I'll be praying for everyone here! 

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