Constantly worrying about my health

Always worried about your health? You may be dealing with health anxiety disorder

 Image: © XiXinXing/Getty Images

You spend hours on the Internet researching health information. When you get a scratchy throat you automatically think cancer — not a cold. And even when medical tests come back showing that you're healthy, it doesn't make you feel better. In the back of your mind you still feel like something is wrong.

If this sounds like you or a loved one, it may be health anxiety.

Health anxiety is a condition that causes healthy people to worry that they are sick — even when they have no symptoms, or minor symptoms like a scratchy throat.

"People with health anxiety for the most part tend to fear severe illness, such as HIV, cancer, or dementia. They worry far less about strep throat, twisting their ankle, or getting a cold," says Dr. Timothy Scarella, instructor in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. This fear that they have a serious illness can interfere with their daily life. It might lead them to seek out unnecessary testing, to waste hours in the doctor's office, and to spend days consumed by worry. But it's not only their own health that people with health anxiety may focus on. "Some people also worry excessively about their children's health," he says.

Health anxiety is a relatively common condition, known to affect some 4% to 5% of people. But experts believe it may be underreported and that the percentage could be closer to 12% — or even twice that, says Dr. Scarella. Unlike other anxiety disorders that are more prevalent in women, health anxiety appears to affect men and women equally.

Not all health worries indicate health anxiety

Being concerned about your health is not the same as health anxiety. It's normal to be worried about your health from time to time. You may wonder if your stomachache is a sign of a more serious condition. If you have had a severe illness in the past, you may be anxious about an upcoming imaging scan.

"There is a difference — at least medically speaking — between a person who has no symptoms or minimal symptoms and is frequently worried and anxious about being or getting sick and a person who is worried about concerning symptoms," says Dr. Scarella. However, he notes that anxiety about real health conditions can also become problematic.

People with health anxiety often misinterpret normal or benign physical symptoms and attribute them to something more serious. For example, if they were to compress an arm while asleep, instead of rolling over and shaking off the numb feeling, they might worry they were having a stroke. Symptoms produced by anxiety — which can include muscle pain, chest pain, heart rate changes, headaches, and dizziness, among others — can heighten existing anxiety about one's health.

Is it health anxiety?

So how do you know if you are sick, or if you're just anxious about being sick? Here are some telltale signs of health anxiety:

  • You have no symptoms, but still fear that you are sick.
  • When a doctor reassures you that you don't have an illness or a test shows you're healthy, it doesn't relieve your nervousness.
  • You find yourself constantly seeking health information online.
  • If you read a news story about a disease, you start worrying that you have it.
  • Your worries about your health are interfering with your life, family, work, or hobbies and activities.

Most often, people with health anxiety have a pattern of this behavior that a primary care physician may begin to notice over time. "I talk to people who call their doctor five, six, or seven times a week," says Dr. Scarella. "Every three or four months they may go to their doctor looking for an HIV test despite the fact that they haven't had any new sexual partners or any experiences that would elevate their risk."

Does testing ease the nerves?

While testing may seem like a quick, easy way to alleviate health-related worries, for people in whom health anxiety has become uncontrollable, testing rarely provides lasting relief. "Repeated testing is unable to reassure people with health anxiety; people don't feel calmed when they get new information that disproves their fear," says Dr. Scarella. Doctors often fall into this trap, thinking "What's the harm in doing a test to reassure this person?" It seems like a reasonable approach. But, ultimately, no amount of testing ends the worry, Dr. Scarella says, and in fact, it may only serve to reinforce the anxiety.

While some people constantly consult their doctor and request testing, in other cases health anxiety causes people to avoid the doctor entirely, which can lead to treatable conditions going undiagnosed. "There are real risks in not going to the doctor — for example, not getting appropriate cancer screenings," says Dr. Scarella. This avoidance can become very dangerous when someone has a real condition but is afraid to get checked out for fear of bad news—such as a person who has appendicitis but puts off going to the doctor.

Treating health anxiety

"The most important thing to know about health anxiety is that it's a treatable problem," says Dr. Scarella. Statistics show that anxiety disorders, in general, are vastly undertreated. Only 37% of people with anxiety disorders receive treatment, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.

This may reflect the stigma related to these conditions, and in the case of health anxiety, people may not actually attribute their symptoms to anxiety, but truly believe they are sick. And they may not know that help is available.

For people who are suffering from health anxiety, it's not helpful to tell them that their symptoms are fake or it's all in their head, says Dr. Scarella. "It's often more constructive to encourage them to look at what the worry is doing to their life," he says. "How is it interfering with the things they enjoy?"

If you suspect you might have health anxiety, focus on what you're losing. Would you rather spend several hours in the emergency room waiting for a test result — when you already had the same test two weeks ago — or do something you love?

Then seek an evaluation from a mental health professional. Your primary care doctor can provide a referral.

It's common for people with health anxiety to have other mental health conditions as well, such as depression, an anxiety disorder, or post-traumatic stress disorder, says Dr. Scarella. Because of this, treatment may need to address multiple issues. Treatment options include medications and psychotherapy, often in the form of talk therapy, which can help you manage and move past your worries.

But ultimately, those who seek help are often able to overcome the constant anxiety. "This can get better," says Dr. Scarella.

Health anxiety - NHS

Health anxiety is when you spend so much time worrying you're ill, or about getting ill, that it starts to take over your life. It's related to obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).

Check if you have health anxiety

You may have health anxiety if you:

  • constantly worry about your health
  • frequently check your body for signs of illness, such as lumps, tingling or pain
  • are always asking people for reassurance that you're not ill
  • worry that a doctor or medical tests may have missed something
  • obsessively look at health information on the internet or in the media
  • avoid anything to do with serious illness, such as medical TV programmes
  • act as if you were ill (for example, avoiding physical activities)

Anxiety itself can cause symptoms like headaches or a racing heartbeat, and you may mistake these for signs of illness.

Self-help for health anxiety

Keep a diary

  • note how often you check your body, ask people for reassurance, or look at health information
  • try to gradually reduce how often you do these things over a week

Challenge your thoughts

  • draw a table with 2 columns
  • write your health worries in the 1st column, then more balanced thoughts in the 2nd. For example, in the 1st column you may write, "I'm worried about these headaches" and in the 2nd, "Headaches can often be a sign of stress"

Keep busy with other things

  • when you get the urge to check your body, for example, distract yourself by going for a walk or calling a friend

Get back to normal activities

  • try to gradually start doing things you've been avoiding because of your health worries, such as sports or socialising

Try to relax

  • try this simple breathing exercise or visit the Mind website for some relaxation exercises

Non-urgent advice: See a GP if:

  • your worries about your health are preventing you leading a normal life
  • self-help is not working

If a GP diagnoses you with health anxiety, they may refer you for a talking therapy, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), or offer you a medicine for anxiety.

Other ways to access CBT

You can refer yourself directly to an NHS talking therapies service without a referral from a GP.

If you can afford it, you can choose to pay for your therapy privately. The cost of private therapy sessions varies, but it's usually £40 to £100 per session.

The British Association for Behavioural & Cognitive Psychotherapies (BABCP) has a register of all accredited therapists in the UK and The British Psychological Society has a directory of chartered psychologists, some of whom specialise in CBT.

More help for mental health

  • read more about getting help for anxiety, fear and panic
  • the mental health charity Mind offers more information on anxiety and panic attacks

Video: Talking therapies for stress, anxiety and depression

Animated video explaining self-referral to psychological therapies services for stress, anxiety or depression.

Media last reviewed: 14 March 2022
Media review due: 14 March 2025

Page last reviewed: 14 October 2020
Next review due: 14 October 2023

How to stop worrying too much about health – Yulia Gridasova

Health is a great value for any person. Someone cares about him more, someone less. Sometimes we get sick or someone close to us gets sick, and this causes anxiety. Such anxiety passes as soon as health is restored. But it happens that a person is constantly worried about various symptoms, is overly worried about his health and often interprets ordinary changes in the body as signs of illness. Among the people, such people are condescendingly called suspicious, hypochondriacs. But they do suffer. What is excessive anxiety about health and how to stop worrying about it too much?

What is excessive health anxiety

Excessive health anxiety is a common mental disorder affecting 5% of the population. It is characterized by the following features:

  • there are bodily symptoms that cause discomfort, but they are psychological in origin, although the person does not know about it or does not recognize it;
  • there are normal bodily symptoms that are the result of the normal functioning of the body and are not harmful, but the person interprets them as signs of illness;
  • there is a fear of illness, and sometimes a person is already convinced that he is ill with something, although doctors conduct examinations and say that this is not so;
  • there is an excessive concern for health, incommensurable with the recommendations of doctors.

A therapist or psychiatrist can help determine if you have this disorder. Disorder is costly. Anxiety stimulates over and over again to seek reassurance from doctors, to conduct many repeated examinations, even to change the habitual way of life. Often people with excessive health anxiety become more passive, try not to burden themselves, may become depressed, even quit their jobs.

But I have symptoms, I don't feel well!

Bodily symptoms can occur for a number of reasons. One possible explanation is some kind of disease. But there are other reasons, for example, the usual changes in the body, which, although they sometimes bring discomfort, are harmless. The physical state is constantly changing, it is useless to fix each change. After a busy day, you are tired and you may have a headache, but tomorrow it will pass if you don’t get hung up and don’t worry. The more experiences, the brighter the symptoms.

Physical condition is affected by anxiety and stress. The body is preparing to run or attack, even if we have not made this decision consciously. The brain and body react the same way to all types of threats: physical - a bear running at us, social - a quarrel with someone, the threat of censure, fictional - worries about the future. The heart pumps blood faster, breathing quickens, consciousness seems to narrow, shortness of breath, chest discomfort, muscle tension, headache, dizziness, tingling in the body, and other symptoms appear. By their nature, they are harmless. But the more focus on these symptoms, the more often and more vividly they are felt, which causes anxiety. And the circle closes.

Why there is excessive health anxiety

Anxiety about health often develops in suspicious and worried people with a sensitive temperament, if a person was sick a lot in childhood, or loved ones were sick, because of which the child was overprotected. Beliefs about health in the family and culture play an important role: “diseases are a nightmare”, “one must constantly be on the alert and worry about health”, “those who do not worry are careless”, and so on. Anxiety about health can be triggered by some kind of serious event, for example, illness or death of someone close to you, your own illness, a mistake by doctors, severe stress, a panic attack.

What supports excessive health anxiety

The health alarm is supported by several closed loops.

Detection and verification of physical symptoms

Let's do a little experiment. Pay attention to the big toe of the left foot. Concentrate. Think about it without being distracted by anything. Try to feel what's wrong with him. What is its temperature, is there a pulsation, tingling or any other sensations. Really look into the inner life of your thumb. I’m willing to bet that even if you didn’t feel anything before, sensations appeared during the experiment. Scanning the body 24/7 is not useful. The more we pay attention to something, the more we begin to notice it.

Finding information about a disease

You wake up in the morning and feel heaviness, nausea, lethargy. You start looking for an explanation on the Internet and find possible options: from a disease of the gastrointestinal tract to a brain tumor. Not all symptoms coincide, but the experience is growing - what if I really have a disease? Anxiety symptoms appear and you again try to find the cause in the body.

In fact, you were in a restaurant yesterday and ate something that was not something that happened to everyone. But the cycle of experiences has already closed.

Something is constantly happening in the human body. Light pains, grumbling in the abdomen, twitching and tingling appear and disappear. Our body is actively working, even if we do not notice it. A person with excessive anxiety about health notices the "products of labor" and begins to worry about them. And the Internet and acquaintances can be an unreliable source of information.

Behavior of an imaginary patient

When a person is overly concerned about his health, he begins to slow down and lead a more passive lifestyle. He mistakenly believes that in this way he will save himself from the load, for example, on his heart, and he will feel better. But the opposite happens: without activity, the body weakens even more. The general condition is aggravated by a feeling of weakness, which makes a person even more worried about health and even more restrict his activity.

Constant search for assurances

Excessive anxiety subsides for a while if the person is reassured that he is all right. But over time, dependence on assurances and consultations is formed. New (actually old) symptoms are noticed, and again you need to run to check. Therefore, anxiety about health creates a huge funnel in the family budget: repeated examinations, tests, consultations with different doctors. The cycle closes.

Reassurances can be sought not only from doctors, but also from relatives: “Is my complexion normal today? But listen to your heart, is it okay that it beats like that? Relatives express their opinion, but it does not last long.

Avoidance of anything related to illness

Due to anxiety, a person may forbid relatives to talk about ailments, turn on news and films where there is a mention of the disease. I know people who, because of their anxiety, have stopped traveling and walking on those routes that have hospitals, even if the journey becomes twice as long. For a short time, this avoidance relieves anxiety. But the more we avoid something, the more frightened we become if we see it. And information about diseases will catch your eye sooner or later. And even if we specifically try not to think about the disease, these thoughts will not go anywhere.

How to stop worrying too much about health

Only a specialist can tell if you have a health anxiety disorder. But you can use the following tips to get rid of unnecessary worries.

Stop trying to get rid of symptoms

We always have some symptoms. Getting rid of them is an impossible task. The body changes day by day, year by year. What you need to learn to do is to worry less. And if the doctors have made any prescriptions for you, it is important to adhere to them adequately - as recommended.

Find other explanations for symptoms

Accept the idea that symptoms are not necessarily a sign of disease. They can be caused by anxiety, stress, or the result of normal physiological changes. Write down all the reasons why you feel sick, and then consider if they can be explained in some other way. Example:

Evidence that I have a heart condition Evidence against
I have chest discomfort I'm worried a lot now, it could be a symptom of anxiety
When I rest, relax, discomfort disappears - heart disease would not go away so quickly
I did all the examinations, the doctors confirmed that I am healthy

Change your focus

Physical activity, doing what you love, hobbies, work helps to distract. If you feel like you're scanning your body again, take a break and look at where you are. Another way is to learn to treat thoughts as just thoughts, and start noticing that symptoms come and go on their own, like clouds in the sky. To do this, do the following exercise regularly:

Sit comfortably, but with a fairly straight back. Close your eyes, take a few deep breaths in and out. Pay attention to the position of your body, how you feel. Shift your focus to sounds that are close in this room. Expand your attention and try to hear something that sounds far away and that you have not heard before - the noise of cars, dripping water in a tap, the conversation of passers-by on the street, a flying helicopter ... Do the exercise for several minutes, and then return your attention to your body and well-being. Open your eyes.

Determine which actions help you and which make things worse

Evaluate actions in the short and long term. For example:

My Ways to Cope with Excessive Health Anxiety Currently useful

(0 -10)

Useful in the long run


Call the doctor about each symptom, asking for reassurance that it is not a disease 8 2
Do follow-up examinations 7 1
Think about symptoms and search for information on the Internet 8 0
Stop looking for information on the Internet 3 8

Stop doing things that are harmful in the long run

Start giving up assurances, self-examinations, seeking or avoiding information about diseases. Gradually restore your normal daily routine and activities. Make time for the things you stopped doing or would like to do, not overworking, but increasing activity day by day.

Call for help

If you have been assured by your doctors that there is nothing to worry about, and you are still worried, seek help from a psychotherapist. The most effective type of therapy for this problem is cognitive behavioral therapy. Before drawing up a therapy plan, the specialist will take an interest in the examinations that you have passed, their results and the conclusions of the doctors. If necessary, send for additional examination. After the picture is clear, together you will draw up a therapy plan. Remember that only a specialist can make a diagnosis.

Ask Yulia Gridasova for help to get rid of excessive health anxiety:

I am very worried about my health.

Am I a hypochondriac?

I am very much worried…

I began to take better care of myself in order to eat right, observe the daily routine, added more movement, sports - it seems to have let go, I get sick less with colds. But other sores fell down - the spine began to disturb, it turned out that there were protrusions .. Recently, my chest began to hurt - I passed on hormones, the tests are excellent. But the gynecologist diagnosed mastopathy. Finally, cystitis finished me off - it happened after the first PA in my life (not protected, but neither I nor my partner had any infections, we both checked). They were treated, the doctor said, this happens because of the ingress of a new microflora. The result - now I'm terribly afraid to have sex without a condom, I'm afraid that this may happen again. Immediately after intimacy, I rush to the toilet, go a little. If I don’t go, I’m going crazy, it starts to seem that my torment will definitely repeat again (((

I can't take it anymore, any illness makes me angry and depressed. I am 23, and the bouquet of sores is growing more and more, despite my efforts (proper nutrition, exercises, daily routine, etc.). A week ago, my bladder began to bother me again, it hurts very badly in my stomach, although I go to the toilet without pain. How to live on? Where to turn to a psychologist? Or is it time to see a psychiatrist??

42 replies

Last - Go



, 20:09




#6 9000 #6 9000 #6 9000 #6 9000



I did not finish reading, I guessed the age correctly. And what is your education?



You can’t panic, but the main thing is to mobilize and harden the body so that infections see that the body is strong and bypass it. for example, mycobacterium tuberculosis is capable of masting to see even a 10 percent hemoglobin drawdown. And tuberculosis in Russia affects 90% of the population, in America -10. there is really no cure other than immunity. the main thing: movement, light, hardening, nutrition and positive. Microbes, viruses, cancers are smarter than humans, why do they suffer with replication in a strong body - if there are thousands of others nearby



#11 9000 2016, 20:25






You just don't have any other worries/troubles, so you're fooling around. In general, it seems to me that it is a shame to take a steam bath at this age because of health. It's annoying to read, that's for sure. Do you live on everything? don't work? no girlfriends? You just don’t talk to others about your troubles, they will start to shy away. They don't like them. I imagine you all wrapped up in a bunch of shawls and also in knickers to the knees. You are young, forget about everything and enjoy life, but don’t go to all sorts of psychologists, they just rip off the money and smartly nod))



9000 9000 # Author, I know everything to the point of pain. You probably are up to 25 years old, and the education of honey? No, didn't you guess?



9002 #20




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  • #23


    #25,00022 #250002 #25000 #25000 #25000 #25000 #25000 #25000 #25000 #25000 #25000 #25000 #25000 #25000 #25000 #25000 #25000 #25,000,0002

    My advice to you: do not engage in self-digging, otherwise it’s not far from a psychiatric hospital. The more you think about your sores, the worse, because they say that thoughts are material. Eat more or less healthy food, walk in the fresh air, communicate with positive people , read. My opinion is that everyone has their own destiny, everyone must go their own way in this life. Merry Christmas everyone!!!


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    I am 23, I am pathologically afraid of getting sick with something, obsessed with cleanliness, proper nutrition, sports. God forbid someone nearby coughs or sneezes, I just see how millions of bacteria fly in my direction. Maybe because from childhood I was sick, there were problems with the kidneys, the immune system is weak, I picked up any infection. Every six months I go through a complete examination, because it seems to me that I have a fatal disease. My parents are both doctors, I think they are already tired of my independent diagnoses. This is self-hypnosis, as soon as I read an article about any disease, I immediately find symptoms in myself. Mom really offers to be treated by a psychotherapist, I’ll probably go, it interferes with life. I still haven't had sex, I'm terribly afraid of STIs, injuries during sex. I didn’t dare to kiss for a long time with a guy, I imagined stomatitis, herpes, orvi .. horror.



    You can’t panic, but the main thing is to mobilize and harden the body so that infections see that the body is strong and bypass it. for example, mycobacterium tuberculosis is capable of masting to see even a 10 percent hemoglobin drawdown. And tuberculosis in Russia affects 90% of the population, in America -10. there is really no cure other than immunity. the main thing: movement, light, hardening, nutrition and positive. Microbes, viruses, cancers are smarter than humans, why do they suffer with replication in a strong body - if there are thousands of others nearby




    9000 #33

    2 Jul Julia 2016, 18:59




    New topics 9000

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    Technical. Does it have any meaning for the problem that I voiced?) It is not by chance that I set myself on the idea of ​​going to a psychologist or somewhere else. It’s just that all these ailments resemble a whirlpool, which delays deeper ((




    is technical. ((



    Yes, you are a hypochondriac. I am the same. Moreover, when there are really no serious threats to health, when I eat right, I lead a healthy lifestyle, I drink a lot of water, I go in for dancing (instead of sports, like physical activity), I follow the regimen, there are no stresses in life, then all the time I am panicky afraid of any diseases. And there was a time when she led a completely unhealthy lifestyle, slept with different men, not always even protecting herself, walked in a light jacket in the cold, ate some kind of filth, was constantly under stress and freaked out and was nervous, did not sleep at night - then she was not at all afraid of any diseases. These are all problems from the head 100% 9technical Does it have any meaning for the problem that I voiced?) It is not by chance that I set myself on the idea of ​​going to a psychologist or somewhere else. It’s just that all these ailments are like a whirlpool that draws deeper and deeper ((



    I know right away. I’m 22 years old, also technical education, work and everything else. And I’m also shaking all over - and not only because of my health, loneliness in old age, the death of my loved ones, I’m also very afraid.

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