Stop being a hypochondriac

Hypochondria is a common anxiety disorder, where the individual believes that any physical symptom may be a sign of some kind of serious illness. Even though they rationally know this is unlikely (and often there is no medical evidence to support their fears) they still become overwhelmed and almost paralysed by their fears which often may morph into anxiety, panic, agoraphobia, social phobia and a complete loss of self confidence and self-esteem (which frustrates them enormously) because most sufferers are intelligent and articulate individuals (who often think too much.)

The majority of Doctors tend to think of hypochondriacs as nuisances or a drain on their time — patients they are just as happy to lose. However, more recently the condition is being taken more seriously (as it should.) However, hypochondria is a problem of the mind, not the body – and disorders of thought are neither imaginary nor untreatable.

In fact, there is a lot of cross-over between hypochondria and OCD because both anxiety disorders cause intrusive thoughts, ruminations and worrisome thinking, as well as, the constant need for reassurance by trying to be in control of everything (and often, every one.)

Generally, hypochondriacal behaviour stems from an event in the past that may have triggered some form of guilt or loss, common triggers seem to be; the loss of a relative, having an affair or being made redundant (or let down) in some way, for some, it may be a learned behaviour in childhood from a parent that overly worried about health (theirs or the child’s) – either way, too much time is spent internally checking feelings and externally looking for danger.

Over time, the individual usually becomes more and more depressed and more and more anxious, with new anxieties forming, often based around a fear of travel, social engagements and leaving the house (agoraphobia).

How it feels to experience hypochondria

Experiencing hypochondria is first and foremost a very tiring, frustrating and ultimately self destructive condition. In the initial stages, the hypochondriac is often unaware of the level to which they are doing so, but over time the awareness rises, but sadly usually so does the checking. The hypochondriac is constantly spending a large portion of both attention and energy in checking and rechecking for physical symptoms, attention that would be better spent on the task the person has at hand and the energy better spent in the daily tasks of the individual. Further down the road, the hypochondria can lead to living a very limited life, with very little energy, with a number of self imposed boundaries severely damaging the quality of life.

How hypochondriacal thinking hooks your attention

The hypochondriac becomes dependent on the constant checking process and without addressing the situation is likely to increase the levels of checking, usually semi-consciously, over time. The checking process becomes a habit that is constantly running to some level or another, even if forced to the background whilst you are trying to do other things, ready to pop to the front of attention if any change in physical symptoms is apparent.

Making excuses to cover up the fears

Whilst some hypochondriacs are happy to talk to others about their fears (to a partner, the doctor or in some cases anyone who will listen!), others prefer to keep the self assessments to themselves. There is usually an attached fear of being judged (when actually the individual’s main issue is they are constantly judging themselves against a fictional check list). The hypochondria also leads to an increased level of anxiety, which if untreated can lead to the individual avoiding certain situations, often using the supposed illness as an excuse not to do what they had planned.

Symptoms of hypochondria

The main symptoms of hypochondria fall into two categories; internal and external. The external are the very obvious – going to the doctor for tests, checking the internet or a book to see what a specific physical symptom could be (usually worst case scenario), self checking for medical conditions (including but not limited to taking pulse, checking own blood pressure, checking everyday for lumps or any physical change to the body externally). The internal ones are the harder to control – constantly scanning the body to look for any small change in physical symptoms that could be the first indication of illness becomes second nature for a hypochondriac, almost like a computer program running in the background.

Guilt is another silent symptom, feeling bad that your partner has to support you, or that you are being a nuisance to the medical profession etc. This program does a lot of work helping you to see who you are, what you want and how to get it – including helping you to grow your self-esteem and confidence, all of which, are important to your recovery.

Overcoming hypochondria & fear of death / illness

Learning how to overcome hypochondria is quite easy, however, actually doing it is quite hard! Many individuals who experience this constant anxiety, exhaustion and fear lapse into a reclusive (and often agoraphobic) state of existence, where there is no point planning for the future as there is no glimmer that the disorder will ever abate. You need to stop using your emotions as proof that something is wrong – it is your emotions that are wrong and need changing!

This mistaken way of thinking changes, when, you realise that we all need dreams, we all need to connect with life / work/ people, it is a fundamental human need. The desire to more forward has to be worked on (even though you may not feel it is possible) you need to do the things you need to do, even though it doesn’t feel good or right or comfortable.

A fear of dying or serious illness is often cited as the reasons why the sufferer can’t do things, so the Calmness in Mind Anxiety Program also helps to give you new perspectives on death (because it will happen some time!)

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Take Action

The most important thing you need to recognise, to move forward is… The only thing you can control in life is your attitude, you can accept things, change things or fight things, hypochondriacs tend to fight things (without realising that is what they are doing) they are often polarity responders and can be seen as quite selfish, because everybody else just has to get on with life, whilst they can blame this and that for them not having to join in.

When the fear of dying is stopping you from living, perhaps it is time to take action and stop being a hypochondriac!