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What if this isn’t just a headache …

Illness Anxiety Disorder is a fear of having a serious disease or life-threatening illness.

Have you ever found yourself losing hours of your day researching symptoms online trying to find out what is wrong with you? Or have you ever experienced a physical pain that immediately made you think you had cancer or a brain tumor?

Maybe you’ve changed parts of your life to accommodate your symptoms, like going to multiple doctor appointments or avoiding certain activities? And maybe you’ve begun to feel alienated because everyone tells you there’s nothing wrong with you and yet you are certain there is.

If any of this sound familiar, you could be suffering from Illness Anxiety Disorder.


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Am I a hypochondriac?

Illness Anxiety Disorder (formerly known as hypochondriasis or “being a hypochondriac”) can be completely debilitating.

If you suffer from this common type of anxiety, you may look to one or more doctors for regular reassurance about your health … or ask them to perform extra tests to give you peace of mind. You may spend countless hours Googling your symptoms … or frequently examine your own body for suspicious changes.

When you do experience real physical health problems, the level of distress is often far greater than the reality of your symptoms. At times, you may even consider your illness to be so debilitating that it interferes with your overall functioning.

The reality is that it’s your anxiety — not your physical ailment — that causes the most distress.

How can therapy help?

Like other forms of anxiety, Illness Anxiety Disorder and hypochondriac tendencies can be effectively treated with CBT therapy.

Since the thought patterns around becoming severely ill are the main cause of the anxiety, CBT will focus on changing the way you view a normal body sensation or a minor symptom, in order to prevent the thoughts from leaping to a life-threatening illness.

In addition to providing alternative ways to think about symptoms and health, you will learn to decrease problematic behaviors (like going to the doctor too often) and your reactions. Through therapy, we can reduce the worry surrounding the possibility of becoming ill, while focusing on how to manage “getting sick” in a healthier way.

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