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Don’t be unnecessarily anxious when in good health

There are some of us who frequently feel sick. We get all sorts of symptoms, and can’t help thinking of the worst diagnoses. Frequent trips to the doctor all turn a blank. Nothing to find on getting examined, and all tests always turn out normal. Sounds familiar? It’s called health anxiety, or if you want a more scientific term, hypochondriasis.

Health anxiety is the result of an inaccurate perception of the condition of your body or mind. This is in disregard to objective evidence of the absence of an actual medical condition. You literally become unduly alarmed by inconsequential symptoms, to the extent of seeking medical help. At the back of your mind, you are constantly thinking about getting a serious diagnosis, like cancer for example. Once your doctor goes through you with a fine toothcomb and finds nothing, you don’t believe them either. Well, at this point, you have become a hypochondriac.

Why does the condition occur?

In simple terms, it is a disorder of perception and extreme vigilance of the state of your health. Innocuous bodily occurrences, like sounds produced by the intestines for example, may trigger negative thoughts about disease. This might then lead you to cross-check things with family or friends, eventually ending up with a physician. Sometimes a trigger for the condition is observed in people whose relatives or friends may have suffered a serious illness, or premature death. But there is also an association with psychological disorders like depression or general anxiety.

You will often get diagnosed with health anxiety if you exhibit persistent beliefs of serious disease in the absence of supportive medical evidence. The duration of your symptoms is sometimes defined as beyond six months for you to qualify. You will possibly have had multiple medical consults and endless tests, without anything specific coming up. You may at times have had some empirical treatment as well, without significant resolution of your symptoms.

As you can imagine, treating hypochondriacs is no mean feat. Several approaches have been tried, with various degrees of successes. The choice ranges from what is called behavioral therapy, to specific medications for some. It can be frustrating for you as a hypochondriac, when you strongly believe that something is the matter but no medic can put a finger on it.

Most of us will experience short spells of health anxiety, without ever getting to the point of hypochondriasis. If you have minor and inconsequential symptoms, there’s no use pursuing them endlessly. If an objective medical assessment gives you the all clear, believe it for heaven’s sake! Yes, there may be times when something can get missed, but this is the exception rather than the rule. Get on with your life, and stop worrying unnecessarily when you are in good health.

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