Health anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic

During the COVID-19 pandemic, you may have felt heightened health anxiety; whether it’s constantly worrying you may have COVID-19 or worrying that you have an undiscovered underlying health problem. If you are someone who thinks about their health a lot you might be suffering from hypochondria.

An man with health anxiety stares out of a window
An anxious man stares out of a window

What is hypochondria?

Hypochondria is when you spend a lot of time worrying you might be ill or getting ill. People who suffer with the condition are constantly worrying about their health, frequently looking out for signs of illness (like lumps, pain or tingling), seeking reassurance that they’re not ill, or obsessively researching into illnesses.

Being anxious about your health can lead to symptoms of anxiety such as headaches, racing heartbeat and mistaking signs of illness.

Five ways to help your health anxiety

Avoid negative media outlets

Whether that’s watching the news, reading a newspaper or listening to the radio. Try avoid media that you know has a high consumption of negative health news. Even though it’s important to stay informed, constantly being bombarded by news will only add to your worry and put you in a negative mindset.

Take care of yourself

Try to maintain a high standard of personal hygiene by washing your hands when you get home, go to work, going to the shops, when blowing your nose, sneezing, coughing and before handling food. This will help you to wash off any unwanted bacteria, like flu or coronavirus.

Also, think about how you’re treating your body, whether that’s eating balanced meals, smoking, drinking too much alcohol or simply not getting enough exercise. These can all have a negative impact on your physical and mental health.

Stay active and busy

Exercising is a great way of helping your brain deal with stress and helps you to get rid of the adrenaline from panicking out of your system.

As well as this, it keeps your mind active and thinking about something other than illness. Other ways you could try keep your mind distracted is by reading, meditating, watching a film, doing some gardening or even cleaning the house.

Only seek medical advice when necessary

When suffering with hypochondria it can be tempting to contact your GP a lot for reassurance that you are ok. Doing this can add to your worry as well as use up a GP’s time. Instead, keep an eye on your symptoms, note them down and don’t jump to the worst case scenario. If you think it could be serious contact your GP and let them know everything you’ve noticed.

Challenge your thoughts

When you have any kind of negative thoughts, you need to evaluate whether or not they’re true or accurate. Cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) helps you do exactly this, it helps you deal with overwhelming problems in a positive way. CBT is used to treat all sorts of different mental health conditions including health anxiety.

Start by thinking about how these thoughts make you feel, and then how it makes you behave and affects your emotions. By identifying these thoughts and the affect they have on you, you can question them and change any distorted beliefs.

If you worry too much about your health and it’s disrupting your normal life, you should consult your GP.