To Your Best Health!

by Michael Corthell

Are you afraid of becoming ill, of being sick?  Let's find out what causes this fear and how to grow out of it and beyond it.

''Neurotics complain of their illness, but they make the most of it, and when it comes to talking it away from them they will defend it like a lioness her young.''
—Sigmund Freud

Hypochondriasis, Nosophobia and 'illness anxiety disorder' are the words doctors use to describe this debilitating phobia.

Many researchers now believe that the cause of this disorder is the observing or experiencing physical and sexual abuse, particularly as a child, and results in a heightened sense of physical vulnerability and leading a person to suspect serious health issues when they are not present.

A history of abuse can also lead a person to feel a sense of insecurity in their interpersonal attachments, which causes them to engage in compensatory care-seeking behavior.

Signs and symptoms may include:
  • Being preoccupied with having or getting a serious disease or health condition
  • Worrying that minor symptoms or body sensations mean you have a serious illness
  • Being easily alarmed about your health status
  • Finding little or no reassurance from negative test results or a doctor's reassurance that you're healthy
  • Worrying excessively about a specific medical condition or your risk of developing a medical condition because it runs in your family
  • Having so much distress about possible illnesses that it's hard for you to function
  • Repeatedly checking your body for signs of illness
  • Frequently making medical appointments for reassurance — or, avoiding medical care for fear of being diagnosed with a serious illness
  • Avoiding people, places or activities for fear of health risks
  • Constantly talking about your health and possible illnesses
  • Frequently searching the Internet for causes of symptoms or possible illnesses
Having some anxiety will help you avoid dangerous situations (anxiety in small doses is a self-defense), but if your anxiety begins to take control of your life, you may need to take a close look at this phobia and ways to manage it.

The symptoms:

Do you suffer from suffer these physical symptoms? Headaches, nausea, dizziness, body ache, itching, diarrhea, night sweats?

Are you constantly anxious and disinterested in anything, but your health or lack of good health?

Is your sex life affected negatively, as well as your social activities?

Are you depressed?  Have weight changes, lack of appetite? Do you over-eat?

Do you also have the fear of germs?

Do you seek help frequently from doctors, local healers, and use alternative health practices? 

Do you tend to order vitamins and other immunity medicines and spend huge amounts of money on them?

Most people find that the development of a positive mental outlook and some lifestyle changes are effective at managing or overcoming anxiety, including illness anxiety disorder.

The key to treating Nosophobia is to manage your anxiety about illness. Self- help techniques like meditation, positive affirmation and visualization do work, you need only to mix your desire to get better with the faith that you will. The other way to reduce anxiety is through drugs which do have side effects. Which will you choose?

Seek a health assessment. It is best to get an objective opinion. Therapy is generally considered one of the most effective ways to manage anxiety disorders, and illness anxiety disorder isn't any different.There are many different approaches to therapy. Your general practitioner may be able to provide you with guidance.

Avoid the news media.  ''If it bleeds, it leads'' is the news media's motto. Negative news sells. While some health risks are an actual cause for concern, and should be reported, many news stories hype the risk of health conditions and illnesses. This fear mongering or the selling of anxiety is cruel and self-serving. Should you avoid the news? You now know the positive answer to that question. 

Don't read about diseases. At least until you've managed the fear you have of it. People with illness anxiety disorder tend to either avoid anything that deals with health or they obsessively read as much as they can about illness and disease.  Both extremes are a problem, obsessively reading about an illness can increase your anxiety and may even convince you that you have the illness you're reading about.

Stop leaning on people for reassurance. Some people with health phobias rely on reassurance from family and friends. Using them as crutches. It could be as simple as asking if they may have come in contact with a pathogen, bug, or it may be a little more complex, like demanding that others treat you as though you were actually sick. Do not do this. If you do, do take a long hard look at this behavior. You'll know what to do (or not to do).

Recognize your stress level and take steps to reduce it. Eat right, and exercise. The number one, common sense way of overcoming the fear of getting sick is knowing that you've done all that you can to maintain your health. Eating a healthy diet, exercising your body and your mind, getting enough rest and sleep etc etc.


[Because symptoms can be related to health problems, it's important to be evaluated by your health care provider if this hasn't already been done. If your provider believes that you may have illness anxiety disorder, he or she may refer you to a mental health provider.]

How to Make Stress Your Friend

by Kelly McGonigal

Stress. It makes your heart pound, your breathing quicken and your forehead sweat. But while stress has been made into a public health enemy, new research suggests that stress may only be bad for you if you believe that to be the case. Psychologist Kelly McGonigal urges us to see stress as a positive, and introduces us to an unsung mechanism for stress reduction: reaching out to others.