Health Anxiety – Hypnotherapy in Ely and Newmarket
Recently a client with health anxiety was telling me how he couldn’t even put the TV on listen to the radio without coming across several mentions of health-related issues. There’s an almost constant stream of adverts and stories about illness, heart disease, cancer and other health issues. And, of course, over the last couple of years, all the mention of COVID-19, long covid and death from the pandemic has presented a challenge to anyone who struggles with health anxiety.
When I work with health-anxiety clients, they often tell me how any slight physical sensation or niggle gets magnified and amplified inside their imagination. Rather than being able to calmly consider and assess that slight pain, discomfort or niggle, their health-anxiety quickly escalates to a worst-case scenario where it is something serious like cancer (and then there are the fearful thoughts about everything that would come with that from impacts on them and their loved ones, to uncomfortable treatment, anxiety and the panic over their potential death).
Whilst the internet is a wonderful thing, with health-anxiety it can become a source of vague information that always points to a serious health condition (just about any physical symptoms can probably be directed towards something catastrophic like cancer).
And, of course, anxiety itself can cause physical sensations, for example in your stomach, chest or muscles, which adds more fear and anxiety to an already racing mind. Your health anxiety can lead to more sensations and aches, tension and pains, which then only adds to your worries about your health and maintains the things you are feeling in your body.
Now, of course, we shouldn’t just ignore every physical sensation and put it all down to anxiety. Yet, like my clients, you can develop the ability to calmly assess what you are feeling, to consider what may have caused it and to decide upon and calmly take any actions that may be needed to treat it. And, of course, the calmer you are able to be, the more clearly you can think, the better your decision-making processes will be and the easier it will be to consider what you are experiencing (without anxiety creating or exacerbating it). And so rather than thinking that twinge in your chest is a sign of a heart issue, you can calmly recognise that you probably strained a muscle exercising.
COVID-19 and the pandemic have certainly added to the health-anxiety levels of many people, whether from a rise in stress or anxiety about catching the virus and being seriously affected. And health-anxiety and the fear of contracting COVID-19 is something I’m covering here today.
Hypnotherapy For Anxiety Relief
Hypnotherapy for anxiety can help you to reduce anxious thoughts and feelings, and to develop the skills and strategies to stay in a good place. As well as the many fantastic stories and all the positive feedback from my anxiety clients (which you can find here: What People Say), we also have the scientific evidence to support hypnotherapy for anxiety.
Valentine, Milling, Clark, and Moriarty (2019), brought together the results of all controlled studies of hypnosis for anxiety to quantify the effectiveness of hypnosis in treating anxiety. They found that hypnosis is a highly effective intervention for anxiety, and concluded from the evidence that:
“The findings of this meta-analysis show that hypnosis is a highly effective intervention for anxiety. Our results indicate the average participant treated with hypnosis achieved more anxiety reduction than about 79% of control participants at the end of active treatment and about 84% of controls at the longest follow-up“.
This is hugely impressive evidence and really demonstrates the beneficial impact of hypnotherapy for anxiety. There’s a bit more on that research in this previous article of mine: The Effectiveness of Hypnotherapy as a Treatment For Anxiety and you may find this article of interest as well: Anxiety Help in Ely and Newmarket – Dan Regan Hypnotherapy
Health Anxiety and Fear of Contracting COVID-19
With the emergence of COVID-19 and the ongoing pandemic, anxiety and stress levels have risen for many people. Many people have been struggling with the mental health impacts of what has been going on and how it has affected us all.
And, perhaps naturally, for anyone with health anxiety it has led to an escalation in anxious thoughts and feelings. I’ve worked with many people who have been anxious and fearful that they, or their loved ones, may contract the virus and be severely impacted. Adding more fuel to their anxiety, it has been pretty much impossible to avoid the news about cases and deaths, the impacts on work, school and home life, and the many mentions about what might happen with the virus and how it may continue to be something that has to be faced and managed.
As with all anxiety, it is very achievable to calm anxious feelings and to take back control over anxious thinking patterns, even with all the news and the discussion about cases, hospitalisations and variants. Rather than being filled with dread and anxiety as you imagine the worst case and having those thoughts of severe illness, or even death, racing through your imagination, you can become more mentally calm and feel more confident and capable about whatever may happen.
Research has even investigated this association between health anxiety and the fearful mental imagery of contracting COVID-19. Someone with high levels of health anxiety will likely already struggle with distressing intrusive imagery of contracting or having a severe disease. With COVID-19, the threat of contracting the virus is constantly communicated by the media and we are all encouraged to adopt safety behaviours such as face masks and hand washing.
Benke, Schönborn, Habermann, and Pané-Farré, (2021) investigated whether COVID-19-related mental images lead to a fearful response and whether that was associated with levels of health anxiety. The study results demonstrated that higher health anxiety was associated with increased fear, arousal, aversion and stronger avoidance tendencies to COVID-19-related mental images.
Someone with health anxiety is prone to anxiously respond to cues and contexts indicating a potential COVID-19 infection (e.g., COVID-19-like symptoms). As the researchers note, in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, this anxious response elicited by threat of COVID-19 might be accompanied by maladaptive behaviour such as stockpiling of disinfectants, excessive contact with health services or unnecessary social withdrawal. Moreover, fearful imagery of contracting a life-threatening disease might be a crucial factor contributing to the proliferation or chronicity of health anxiety.
Whenever I work with someone with anxiety, I always want to understand the anxious thoughts that tend to dominate their mind when they feel anxious. Our imagination is a wonderful thing, yet it does mean that we are capable of creating all sorts of vivid fearful worst case scenarios inside our minds which exacerbate the problem. Logical thinking can be subsumed by emotional thinking that creates a cycle of anxious thoughts and feelings. It is perhaps, therefore, not surprising that health anxiety can lead to fearful mental imagery of contracting COVID-19 which both exacerbates and continues your suffering with anxiety.
Whilst some concern or worry about health related issues can happen to almost anyone from time to time, health anxiety goes way beyond that and can have a distressing and limiting impact upon your life. That excessive worry and anxiety about your health or about getting a serious illness or disease can lead to unpleasant and unwanted thoughts and feelings, a sense of dread and the avoidance of certain people, places or activities.
With health anxiety, any physical or bodily sensation can become interpreted as a sign of something serious. You may hone in on that sensation and focus upon it excessively. The anxiety can lead to uncomfortable feelings and overthinking dreaded possible meanings and you may find yourself constantly checking that sensation, looking for other possible signs of something bad happening and struggle with a need for reassurance that all is ok.
Yet, as with all anxiety, because those anxious thoughts and imaginings go on inside your own mind, it is possible to learn to be able to calm them down, to reason through them, to dispute them and to reduce their impact. Naturally no one wants to get COVID-19, or any serious disease, and sometimes we do need to make decisions and take some action to reduce risk or to seek medical advice. Yet the more you can do this in a calm way, the easier it will be to decide what, if anything, you need to do.
By learning to reduce and manage your health anxiety, and the thoughts, feelings and behaviours that go with it, you can find yourself thinking more clearly, evaluating things more calmly and feeling more in control in your own thoughts and feelings.
To your health anxiety relief,
Anxiety Help in Ely & Newmarket
You can read more about hypnosis as a treatment for anxiety in these articles: Anxiety Articles
Struggling with your health anxiety and need some expert help to overcome your anxiety? Book your Complimentary Hypnotherapy Strategy Session with me now: Appointments
You can discover what many, many other people have said after their anxiety hypnotherapy sessions with Dan: Testimonials
And check out these powerful anxiety hypnosis downloads that can start helping you right away: Anxiety Hypnosis Downloads
Benke, C., Schönborn, T., Habermann, N. and Pané-Farré, C.A., 2021. Health anxiety is associated with fearful imagery of contracting COVID-19: An experimental study. Journal of Affective Disorders.
Valentine, K.E., Milling, L.S., Clark, L.J. and Moriarty, C.L., 2019. The Efficacy of Hypnosis as a Treatment for Anxiety: A Meta-analysis. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, 67(3), pp.336-363.