Are you often stressed about your health? Are you afraid of falling ill or worried of getting a serious illness? Don’t know what this phobia is? Here’s the answer to all your questions.
Health anxiety or illness anxiety disorder is called Hypochondriasis or Nosophobia. The word Nosophobia comes from the combination of Greek words ‘nosos’ and ‘phobos’ which means disease and fear respectively. It is state of constant worry of your health and body even when nothing is wrong. It is just a mental perception despite any medical conditions. In this state person notices even minor bodily changes and believes they have a specific illness which leads to health anxiety.
Hundreds of people around the world face this phobia and are diagnosed under this condition. In some cases even hearing and thinking of a disease may lead to a panic attack.
Causes of Illness Anxiety Disorder:
Mostly people who are more affected by this disorder are the ones who have anxious mindsets or those who have preexisting pituitary gland related disorders. People with chronic diseases, bipolar disorders, depression or obsessive compulsive disorder are also very much prone to getting fear of illness.
The below listed are the major causes of this anxiety disorder:
- It is mainly seen in cardiovascular patients or people with cancer , tuberculosis etc. because these are the chronic diseases and people suffering from them tend to get depressed and get a fear of getting more severe diseases. People with such diseases overthink and fear whether these diseases would be cured or not.
- This phobia develops a habit of reacting pessimistically to everything pertaining to sickness. This could arise due to somatic amplification disorder which is related to terms like perception and cognition which makes the person come into a blown out of proportion state compared to the actual risk of the sickness or disease.
- Watching or reading about incurable diseases causes’ excessive fear of illness.
- Mothers who are overprotective and over caring for their children even in case of minor heath conditions may unknowingly cause hypochondriasis in children for some diseases.
In case of different patients Hypochondriasis or Nosophobia manifests differently and hence different patients may have different symptoms for this disorder.
Few listed below are the symptoms of hypochondriasis:
- There may be physical symptoms to the patient like headaches, body ache, heavy sweating due to nervousness, itching or diarrhea. People very often visit doctors for these symptoms but get more anxious when they don’t get them cured.
- As people are so much involved in anxiety of disease that they are disinterested in anything and the constant depression can affect their social life, mental health as well as their sex life majorly. They get irritated and frustrated very easily on small things.
- Anxiety is the major symptom of this disorder which ultimately leads to loss of appetite, weight changes or may be over-eating as they might tend to eat more to relief.
- Some people get so conscious about the diseases that they keep washing hands and keep taking bath in order to avoid any germs to enter their body or to avoid any bacterial attack. Fear of germs, fungal infections and virus attacks to body is what makes them more anxious.
- The fear of disease leads them to try local treatments or alternative therapies. Taking supplements, vitamins or other immunity medicines so prevent illness is a common thing with the patients with this disorder.
How to cure it?
As the major symptom of this disorder is anxiety what can be better than meditation as it produces observable changes within brain waves. People who have phobia or anxiety disorders have beta brain waves overload. Meditation helps increase alpha brain waves and helps in relaxing the brain and diverting it from the fear. Mediation empowers your mental strength and helps overcoming fears and insecurities. The biggest challenge is learning the proper way to practice it. If you follow it properly meditation over a period of time helps your mind to control, cure or significantly minimize anxiety.
Exercises may not help you cure fears of illness but it increases body relaxation and decreases discomfort hence increasing your stamina and immunity to fight diseases. If a person is physically strong then he/she is less prone to diseases. You feel strong from inside and hence don’t think of getting illness. It ultimately gives you positive vibes about your body. Daily cardio for 30 minutes does your job. You need to invest much time in it. Moreover it is a sort of recreational activity for your body which reduces stress and diverts your mind for something more positive thing like fitness.
Yoga is included in one of the best lifestyles you can adopt. It is a gently way of exercising which don’t cause any muscle aches which can cause more worry to people who are suffering from this disorder. It helps you learn how to control stress, anxiety and symptoms of Hypochondriasis such as shortness of breath, high heart rates and it also strengthens your cardiovascular system giving you confidence to fight diseases instead of fearing them. You can train your brain to relax by doing yoga. When you practice yoga on daily basis you feel a sense of relaxation. It not only makes you physically relaxed but also makes you a calmer person.
- Face your fears
The major reason why we get this fear of illness is because we don’t face it. Face it once and you will gain the strength to face it. If you face your fear again and again and feel uncomfortable every time then you have a severe disorder. If you push yourself a bit and get out of your comfort zone to face the illness you may never face this disorder. Once you face any illness and get out of it curing yourself you will realize that it is not that intimidating. This is the best and easiest way to cure this disorder because it enhances your inner strength and gives you the power to keep trying and overcome the fear. Once you give up you will become a slave of your disorder and might not be able to overcome it lifetime. Gain your strength and will to overcome your fears. Face them and defeat them.
- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
The cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT combines thinking and behavioral retraining for favorable results. It has three major aspects which includes exposure therapy, cognitive restructuring and relaxation training. Cognitive restructuring includes training the mind in a way that it replaces all the negative thoughts with the positive one. This aspect of training is very helpful in cases of hypochondria as people tend to develop negative thoughts and anxiety about illness.
Relaxation training for the person suffering from this type of phobia includes using of certain tools which combat feeling of stress, anxiety, thoughts of illness and physical discomfort due to illness. Relaxation training includes controlled breathing exercises, grounding techniques for treating panic attacks and visualization routines. Example may be looking around and naming objects in a room in order to distract mind from the thought of illness and reconnect with reality and overcome self-doubts.
These two aspects of CBT are very helpful in treating hypochondria patients.
- Eat healthy food
Eating good nutritious food in healthy amounts is not only great for health and body but also prevents diseases by providing immunity to your body. Avoid fatty, oily or high sugar food. Healthy food not only prevents physical discomforts but is also soothing for your stomach. If you eat healthy you tend to get less stomach aches, you stay in perfect shape, prevention of shortness of breath, sluggishness or obesity. Unhealthy eating habits always lead to illness. And if you have a fear of illness eat healthy so that you gain confidence from inside that your body is healthy and less prone to diseases. Consume a balanced diet with appropriate protein contents, vegetables and fruits. Reducing these negative sensations will help you control the psychological distress caused due to bodily symptoms.
- Maintain a proper sleep schedule
Half of your stress is gone if you take a sound sleep. Sleeping well at night maintains your psychological balance, mental peace and physical heath. During sleep the physical sensations are decreased and improves positive thinking in case of hypochondria patients. If because of anxiety you are not able to sleep make a proper bedtime sleep schedule. This sleep schedule includes the timings set for sleep and always be in bed by that time, drink a cup of green tea or herbal tea before bed, read some good positive books till you feel the need to sleep. By doing so you will get time to relax your body properly and ditress yourself while sleep.
Hypnosis is basically a recording that instructs you to deeply relax your body and mind. It helps you focus on your thought process and increase confidence and self-esteem by implanting new thoughts. You can do it with help of a professional hypnotherapist or you can do a self-hypnosis by the help of online recordings. It helps you in your sleep process as well. It is a state of consciousness in which person loses the power of voluntary actions and responds to suggestions and directions. In this therapy it allows the modification of behavior and is very helpful in case of treating hypochondria as patient can discard the fear of illness and as per directions can think positive things and can easily overcome his/her fears about illness or ailment.
- Neuro feedback
This is a perfect treatment for people with anxiety disorders or people with any sort of phobias. In this treatment neuro feedback practitioner takes reading of your brain waves and determine which areas are distracted, stressed or off base. When you have anxiety the number of regions where the slow alpha or theta waves should be there you tend to get sped up high range beta waves which leads to mental stress in your head. In this procedure the practitioner knows how to train your brain naturally produce brain wave frequencies. If your condition is out of control you should surely go for this one. It is bit expensive and not works for everyone.
- Replace your web searches and Media choices
When you have the fear of illness or any particular disease you tend to google about the physical symptoms, possible causes of the disease. If you have this habit please replace your web searches as internet is full of information and everything that is there is not accurate and may cover worst case scenarios that you probably don’t have. Getting worried reading all this will only stress you more. The habit of such searches and this behavior is termed as Cyberchondria. Instead of getting yourself involved in checking symptoms of diseases make it a habit of googling something else like searching some other stuff like animals starting with the same letter of disease and learn interesting facts about them.
- Commitment of Healing
All you need to do is find out the root reasons behind your fear and have a sense of commitment of healing. People with hypochondria convince themselves that there is physical ailment however there is none. It’s just a psychological disorder they are going through. Even if being told multiple times that nothing is wrong still for them it is a very real thing. In this process of healing the sufferer and the person responsible for treatment should be clear about the problem and some mental exercises can heal the physical symptoms. Brain has a strong influence over body and can affect how well body heals. It’s all in the mind so commit to yourself and find some recreational; activities for yourself so that your brain do not influence you up to that extent that you start feeling symptoms of some ailments.
Follow these therapies and I am sure you can overcome this fear. Just get a healthy lifestyle and you are good to know. No negative thoughts would ever propagate in your mind regarding any ailment or illness till the time you have a healthy body and strong mind.