Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in Los Angeles For Health Anxiety
Many of us experience health anxiety from time to time. It might be that your heart races every time you think about going to the doctor, or that you fret over small injuries or minor ailments like a stomachache. Perhaps you feel nervous about visiting a loved one in the hospital for fear of being exposed to germs. Whatever the case, health anxiety becomes problematic when your worries become all-consuming and start to control how you live your daily life. Cognitive behavioral therapy in Los Angeles is the first step to conquering your health anxiety so you can start to enjoy life again.
Are You Showing Symptoms of Health Anxiety?
Health anxiety is defined as “excessive anxiety about having or acquiring a serious illness.” There are two main types of health anxiety disorders that people struggle with: hypochondriasis (fear of contracting a disease) and somatic symptom disorder (extreme anxiety over the body’s normal functions like heartbeat and digestion). If not managed, health anxiety can develop into a panic disorder (intense fear manifested by heart palpitations, shaking, sweating) or agoraphobia (intense fear of leaving one’s home). Health anxiety can include any or all of the following symptoms:
- Fear that your symptoms mean you have, or will develop, a serious illness. For example, when you get a headache and your first thought is brain cancer.
- Engaging in compulsive behaviors such as excessive handwashing, sanitizing one’s home, or showering to the point that it interrupts with normal activities.
- Avoiding situations where germs are present or when it is likely that you will become exposed to illness. For example, avoiding necessary everyday tasks such as going to the grocery store for fear of germ exposure.
- Nervousness, fear, or panic when it is time to visit the doctor.
- An overwhelming fear of falling ill and having to endure the pain of a serious disease.
Any or all of these symptoms could be indicators of health anxiety that has gotten out of control. If you find yourself identifying with these symptoms to the point that your life feels controlled by your fears of becoming ill, you may wish to find relief by seeking the help of a cognitive behavioral therapist.
Navigating Health Anxiety During a Pandemic
2021 has presented unique circumstances for those of us living with health anxiety: a worldwide pandemic, for starters. The coronavirus has proven itself to be both dangerous and deadly, with a worldwide response to prove it. Naturally, it has sparked anxiety in a huge sector of the population for many reasons: Will my unvaccinated family and friends contract the virus and suffer severely, possibly even pass away? Will I get a breakthrough infection and be placed on a ventilator? Will I be able to keep my job throughout the pandemic? Will I be exposed to the coronavirus at my job? What happens if I get sick but don’t have any sick leave to cover it? Will the virus continue to travel the world and mutate into deadlier versions of itself?
Unfortunately, though these questions are anxiety-inducing, they are also logical and reasonable due to the severity of the situation we are in. With a worldwide pandemic in full force, how can you tell if your health anxiety is reasonable or irrational, justified or harmful?
Stay Informed – But Not Overly Informed
Keep up-to-date on new information about the virus so that you can practice recommended safety precautions, but limit your reading and watching time. Perhaps schedule a time once a week that you can check coronavirus news. This will help reduce uncertainty surrounding the situation by keeping you informed, but discourage the constant researching and rumination that can lead to spiraling anxiety about the virus.
Follow Safety Precautions, but Monitor Your Anxious Behaviors
It is very important to follow safety precautions for this virus, whether you are vaccinated or not, but your health anxiety may cause you to overdo it to the detriment of your life. Mask-wearing, getting vaccinated, and washing your hands before eating or touching your face are all proven to protect against the virus. That being said, wearing a mask in your own home or washing your hands compulsively to the point of cracking and bleeding are signs that you have taken normal health precautions too far.
Avoid Avoiding the Situation
Some people with health anxiety will simply avoid situations that make them anxious. In a pandemic, during which lots of public places or social situations may make those with health anxiety anxious, it can be difficult to even leave your home. Unfortunately, avoidance does work to limit anxiety, confirming to your brain that you have chosen the right option by avoiding a situation that could make you anxious. Long-term, however, this avoidance can lead to isolation and depression. To counteract this, start small with visiting outdoor places like parks while following safety precautions.
Check in with Yourself Regularly
Take stock of your thoughts and feelings on a regular basis throughout the pandemic. If you notice that you are becoming increasingly worried or afraid about contracting this virus or developing an infection due to exposure, schedule an appointment for cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) with a professional therapist.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in Los Angeles Can Help You Overcome Your Health Anxiety
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a powerful tool that can help you overcome your health anxiety and other mental illnesses. Through this form of talk therapy, you will learn to identify the connections between emotions, thoughts, and behaviors as well as how those connections affect one another over time. You will learn strategies for navigating your health anxiety, such as mindfulness and relaxation exercises, in order to reduce excess worry.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can take place in-person or online if your schedule does not allow for weekly therapy sessions, but whatever form it takes, CBT will give you tools that are effective against health anxiety and provide practical ways to limit its impact on your life. Health anxiety is a frustrating ailment that can take over your mind and make you miss out on other aspects of living – don’t let it have power over you any more.
Contact Our Trained Therapists
We know that finding the courage to talk about your pain can be difficult. It’s our goal at COPE Psychological Center to make it as easy and accessible for you as possible, so please call us today if you need help therapy or any other mental health services. You are not alone in this process. Know that we’re here for you every step of the way on your journey towards trauma healing and happiness. Call us today at 310-453-8788 or fill out a contact form online for more information!