“After obsessively Googling symptoms for four hours, I discovered ‘obsessively Googling symptoms’ is a symptom of hypochondria.” – Stephen Colbert 
Health anxiety, also known as illness anxiety disorder or hypochondriasis, is a psychological condition characterized by excessive worry and fear about having a severe medical condition. Individuals with health anxiety often misinterpret normal bodily sensations as signs of severe illness, leading to heightened distress and frequent medical reassurance seeking.
What Is Health Anxiety?
Health anxiety, also known as illness anxiety disorder or hypochondriasis, is a psychological condition characterized by excessive worry and fear about having a severe medical condition (Salkovskis et al., 2002). 
Individuals with health anxiety often misinterpret normal bodily sensations as signs of severe illness and continuously seek medical reassurance, leading to frequent doctor visits and medical tests. According to research conducted by Alberts et al., 2013, cognitive factors, such as attentional biases and catastrophic beliefs, contribute to developing and maintaining health anxiety. 
What Are The Physical And Emotional Symptoms Of Health Anxiety?
Health anxiety is associated with a range of physical and emotional symptoms. Research has identified several common symptoms experienced by individuals with health anxiety:
- Physical Symptoms: Individuals with health anxiety may experience physical symptoms often related to their perceived health concerns. These can include palpitations, muscle tension, dizziness, headaches, shortness of breath, gastrointestinal issues, and fatigue. Taylor et al., 2008 found that individuals with health anxiety reported a higher frequency and intensity of physical symptoms than control groups. 
- Emotional Symptoms: Health anxiety is also associated with various emotional symptoms. These can include excessive worry, fear, restlessness, irritability, difficulty concentrating, sleep disturbances, and heightened sensitivity to bodily sensations. Research published by Dozois et al., 2004 highlighted the presence of elevated levels of anxiety, depression, and distress in individuals with health anxiety compared to the general population. 
Please note that these symptoms can vary in intensity and presentation among individuals. If you or someone you know is experiencing these symptoms, it is advisable to consult with a qualified healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate support.
When To Seek Professional Help For Health Anxiety?
Seeking professional help for health anxiety is recommended when symptoms significantly impact daily functioning, cause distress, and interfere with a person’s quality of life. Seek professional assistance if you face any of the following issues: 
- Persistence and Intensity of Symptoms: If health anxiety symptoms persist for an extended period, worsen over time, or significantly interfere with daily activities, it may be beneficial to seek professional help.
- Impaired Functioning: If health anxiety leads to avoidance of activities, social isolation, or occupational difficulties, seeking professional help is advisable.
- Negative Impact on Well-being: When health anxiety causes significant distress, anxiety, depression, or a decline in overall well-being, professional intervention can be beneficial.
- Inability to Self-Manage: If attempts to manage health anxiety independently, such as self-help strategies or lifestyle changes, prove ineffective, professional assistance is recommended.
Remember, consulting with a qualified healthcare professional who can provide an accurate diagnosis, appropriate treatment options, and ongoing support tailored to individual needs is essential.
What Can You Do To Manage Health Anxiety?
Managing health anxiety involves adopting various strategies that have shown effectiveness in research. Here are some evidence-based approaches: 
- Education and Information: Gaining accurate information about health conditions and medical processes can help individuals with health anxiety challenge misconceptions and alleviate anxiety.
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT is a well-established treatment for health anxiety. It focuses on identifying and challenging cognitive distortions and maladaptive beliefs related to health concerns.
- Mindfulness-Based Interventions: Mindfulness techniques, such as meditation and acceptance-based approaches, can help individuals with health anxiety develop a non-judgmental and accepting stance toward their thoughts and bodily sensations.
- Gradual Exposure and Response Prevention: Gradual exposure to feared health-related situations and response prevention (avoidance of reassurance-seeking behaviors) is another effective technique.
- Stress Reduction Techniques: Incorporating stress reduction techniques such as relaxation exercises, deep breathing, and physical activity can help manage anxiety symptoms associated with health concerns.
It is essential to consult a qualified healthcare professional or therapist to tailor these strategies to individual needs and circumstances.
Health anxiety can significantly impact an individual’s well-being and quality of life. Seeking professional help, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, mindfulness-based interventions, and stress reduction techniques, can effectively manage health anxiety symptoms and improve overall functioning. Addressing health anxiety to promote psychological well-being and reduce unnecessary distress is essential.
If you are facing health anxiety, reach out to our mental health experts at United We Care! At United We Care, a team of wellness professionals and mental health experts will guide you with the best methods for well-being.
 Colbert, S. (n.d.). Quote by Stephen Colbert: “After obsessively Googling symptoms for four ho...” Goodreads. Retrieved May 15, 2023, from
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