Have you ever had chest pain and thought that you were having a heart attack? Or a skin rash, with you thinking that it is surely cancer? A lot of us are aware of the term ‘hypochondria’, or health anxiety, yet, how many of us actually live with it? While it only affects 2-5% of the people, a lot of us have suffered from anxiety in our lives at some point or the other. Up until COVID-19 happened, my health anxiety was controllable, but with each news report, it spiralled into a motley of thoughts and somatic expressions.
The foremost problem with hypochondriasis is that we start catastrophising, with no clue about how to deter or overcome these thoughts. The smallest of physical changes bother you, you sneeze and you are almost sure it’s COVID-19. With that throat pain, you give your family false scares, numerous trips to the doctor with no apparent onset of any disease, and at the end of it, feel exhausted and awful. Well, the good news is you are not alone! Although it feels like despair is drowning you (I know for sure that the pandemic days have been extremely distressing and increasingly so), but I hear you.
The first step to healing is to accept the situation and know that there are others out there, just like you. In recent years, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy has become one of the best tools to combat health anxiety. With progressive counselling techniques, you are bound to feel better. One of the important self-help books I have come across on this is ‘Overcoming Health Anxiety: A self-help guide using cognitive behavioural techniques’ by Rob Wilson and David Veale. The book perfectly addresses the issue at hand, and outlines a performative remedial approach with it.
Another book worth mentioning is Bev Aisbett’s ‘Living with It: A Survivor’s Guide to Overcoming Panic and Anxiety‘. With proper resources and help, it is absolutely possible for you to maintain a stable life.
Remember, anxiety is nothing out of the normal. Everyone has it, only varying degrees of it. You just have it a notch higher. With practice and time, you can tame your anxiety and control it to a limit where it does not interfere with your daily life activities.