Health and Illness-related Anxiety

Most of us experience some health-related anxiety, especially with the internet at our fingertips to look up any symptoms, however minor, and assume the worst.  People may also experience health-related anxiety after treatment for a serious medical illness, such as cancer, with worries about reoccurrence or other complications.  These thoughts and fears related to potential illness can prevent individuals from fully living their lives, getting in the way of meaningful relationships or being unable to focus at work or school.  

Illness Anxiety Disorder occurs when someone is preoccupied with fears of having or acquiring a serious medical condition or illness for more than 6 months.  These fears occur despite minimal or no physical symptoms related to the illness and reassurance through medical evaluations.  People with Illness Anxiety Disorder often become hyper-aware of common physical sensations such as rapid heartrate or stomach discomfort and worry that they are indicators of disease.  

Signs and Symptoms of Illness Anxiety Disorder

  • Having recurrent preoccupation with having or acquiring a serious illness for over 6 months (the feared illness may differ over time) with minimal or no physical symptoms.

  • Making frequent visits to medical providers for reassurance or avoiding medical appointments in fear that a serious illness is confirmed.  

  • Having a high level of anxiety about health and becoming easily alarmed about personal health status.

Treatment for Health Anxiety

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is effective in treating for Illness Anxiety Disorder.  CBT focuses on reducing worries about symptoms and fears of serious illness, to regain ability to more easily focus on relationships, work, and other important aspects of life.  Treating for Illness Anxiety Disorder also reduces anxiety related to visiting a doctor or decreasing the amount of medical provider visits when they feel excessive. Our therapists at CBT Denver have the expertise to help you with your health-related fears and anxiety.

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