TW: Health anxiety, hypochondria, self harming // Information in this post should not be taken as medical advice. If you're concerned about anything I talk about in this post, contact your GP.

In the Summer of 2019, I suffered from the worst bout of health anxiety I’ve ever had. I spent WEEKS unable to focus or concentrate, laying in bed staring at the ceiling, convincing myself of the worst and even physically harming myself from prodding and poking so much. I wrote a more detailed post about my own experience with health anxiety last year but today I’m going to go into much more detail about how to deal with hypochondria.

How To Deal With Hypochondria

Photo by Heather Ford on Unsplash

I’ve suffered from a lot of anxiety for a lot of years around a lot of different things. It’s been exhausting and I feel like I need a decade to hibernate and rest from it tbh! But now, in Summer of 2020, after almost a decade of a severe anxiety disorder, I’m feeling *almost* normal. But what the heck even IS normal anymore?

I’m in a really good place with my anxiety now and I want to mention this because years ago, I never thought it was possible. I never thought I’d be able to lead even a shred of a normal life ever again. But in December of 2019, I was officially un-diagosed with anxiety. So it IS possible.

And that goes for Generalised Anxiety Disorder (what I had) and hypochondria. I’ve successfully managed to beat them both. And that’s probably my proudest achievement to date. But I know how debilitating hypochondria can be. If you read my previous post about my health anxiety, you’ll be able to see how it affected me.

So let’s talk about how to deal with hypochondria and some effective coping tips:

How To Deal With Hypochondria

Don’t be ashamed of your hypochondria

First things first, your hypochondria is nothing to be ashamed about. Like any other mental illness. We want to break the stigma around mental illness and whilst hypochondria is looked upon with really negative connotations attached to it, it is a mental illness and it is common. And it’s certainly nothing to be ashamed about. So first things first, is try to accept where you are with your hypochondria and go from there.

Visit your GP or bring it up at your next appointment

Bringing it up with my nurse is what started the ball rolling for me to actually deal with my health anxiety. If you have an appointment booked for something else, bring it up and talk it out. Sometimes, medication can help. It did for me. And you might be offered that option. Or perhaps a course of CBT or therapy to help get to the root cause of your hypochondria might be a better fit. Talking to a professional is ALWAYS the best option.

Visit a therapist as a way to deal with hypochondria

If you’re able to financially and circumstantially, then visiting a therapist for hypochondria is a great option. Of course you might be referred to CBT or choose to take that route yourself. Or opt for talking therapy instead. Whatever you choose, it’s a personal decision but actually your hypochondria – as with a lot of anxiety disorders – might run much deeper than you think and it’s worth exploring that.

Stay off the internet – especially forums

When I had a colposcopy at the hospital after they found abnormal cells during my first smear test, the first thing the nurse said to me was, “stay off of forums – the only people on them are the ones who have got something bad to say. Everyone else is just getting on with their lives”. And that’s stuck with me ever since. DO. NOT. GO. ON. FORUMS. However tempting it might be. Get a loved one to confiscate your phone if you have to.

Do activities to help you deal with hypochondria

By activities, I mean certain things that you can do when you’re feeling particularly bad to try and calm your monkey mind. Similar to the type of techniques they teach you in CBT. The first technique is to grab a notebook and keep track of all the days and times you find yourself checking something (on your body) or asking for reassurance about something.

Once you’re able to see the frequency in which you’re doing this, you’ll then be able to whittle down the amount of time you spend checking things. If you check 5 times a day, try checking 4 times the following day and so on. The next technique is creating a chart of two columns, the first column is for your worries (however silly they seem) and the second column is for your rational thoughts. For example:

Column 1: I’m worried about my headaches

Column 2: Headaches can be a sign of stress plus I’m not drinking enough water

Look after your body

If your health is the thing you’re so nervous about, it ALWAYS helps to be conscious about your own body. I’m not about diet culture and I never ever preach weight loss or dieting but having a healthier diet and exercising never hurt anybody. Check out these 32 Yoga With Adriene practices for every mood if you need a little boost! Yoga is also amazing at helping you get more in tune with your body.

Practice self care, relaxation and distraction techniques

I think self care and relaxation are good things to practice ALL the time. Whether you have hypochondria or a mental illness or not. Everyone needs to look after their basic self care and slotting self care into their day whenever possible – even if you only have 10 minutes for self care! Also try some relaxation techniques, such as meditation and trying to distract yourself when you feel the urge to check or look something up online.

Don’t compare your experience of hypochondria to someone else’s

Just like all mental illnesses, no two are the same. Your experience with hypochondria might be ENTIRELY different from someone else’s, even if they have the same basic traits. This particularly applies to when you’re reading things online. We know by now you shouldn’t be on forums but if you DO find yourself on a forum and stumble across a negative story, remember that it isn’t YOUR story.

Fact check and only get your information from reliable sources

If you do want to check symptoms, then ensure you’re only using reliable sources, such as the NHS website. I know we said to try and stay offline as much as possible as a way to deal with hypochondria but the NHS website is a really good resource and definitely has it’s benefits. It’s just about finding that healthy balance.

Go straight to your doctor with any health worries

I shouldn’t need to tell you this but I will anyway. If you DO notice anything that alarms you – book an appointment with your GP. And if its absolutely nothing and you just worried unnecessarily – so what. You’re not wasting the doctors time and you know the saying – it’s better to be safe than sorry.

10 Tips On How To Deal With Hypochondria

I hope these tips helped you if you suffer with hypochondria. Do you have any other tips to add here? Do you have your own story of hypochondria to tell? Let me know and share in the comments!

85 Comments

  1. Thank you so much for sharing this, your tips are so helpful💕 everyone always talks about hypochondria as if it’s silly so I forget that it’s a real mental illness, it’s nice to see it acknowledged x

  2. loved your post and thought i would like to share a prayer with you. let me know if you’re fine to watch it on youtube and i will share the link with you. you will be blessed and i believe a miracle is just waiting to happen.

  3. Internet forums are the absolute worst when it comes to health issues – although they can be helpful to identify lesser known links with certain illnesses, it’s so easy to get sucked in and think you have all sorts of problems!

  4. This is really interesting, I’m the complete opposite so this isn’t something I’ve paid much attention to before. I totally agree about staying away from the internet though, even if you’re not a worrier something will convince you you’re dying if you read for more than a few minutes. I’m glad you’ve found some things that help! x

  5. This is super helpful – I find the internet a trigger at times so really try to have internet free weekends xx

  6. I love how open and honest you always are about your experiences, Jenny. This is such a helpful post, for so many people. I think the term hypochondria has a lot of negative connotations but really it shouldn’t do, health anxiety is real and we should respect that. Thank you again for your honesty xx

    Lisa | http://www.lisasnotebook.com

  7. Firstly, so so so proud of you!!! Having been living with GAD for a while now, I know how hard it is!! Secondly, this post is so helpful and positive! I love your tips, and loving your body is a huge must!! Thank you for sharing!!

  8. So relatable! The past few weeks I’ve had such a hard time with this and am still experiencing it now. I feel like I’ll never be “better” again and just spiral into fear and worries that I may have serious issues. In reality, I had a UTI about a month ago and the antibiotic threw off my digestive system and I’ve been dealing with the repercussions of that daily. I’ve talked to a doctor and KNOW that what I’m experiencing is because of this, but it’s so easy to worry that it’s something bigger or scarier.

    1. Oh Christ, it really is. I’d suggest setting yourself a worry limit. Spend 10 minutes a day worrying, then go through the facts, “you KNOW what your symptoms are from” then try and forget about it. Easier said than done, I know.

  9. Yes yes yes and yes!! We do need to talk more about mental health and illnesses. I have suffer from depresive – anxiety disorder since I was 15 and it is a rollercoster of everthing. I have bad and I have good periods in my life, like you do too. Taking a break and focusing on yourself is more needed in this world then we think. Great post with amazing tipa.

  10. This post is soooo great for me, I have really really bad hypochondria, I’m almost always convinced something is wrong with me and I force myself to go for a full body blood test every year. I’ve also got the biggest phobia of the “C” word as it runs in my family and it is something I am constantly worried about.

    Thank you for sharing these tips Jenny! Have a great day 😊

    🌿 Marissa Belle × marsybun.com 🌿

  11. Lockdown is something I am so grateful to, I never knew I’d function in a normal way too. Idk, but I can relate with the hibernating for a decade, I did not know I will be able to think the way I do now. But I do want to engage in therapy

  12. Oo, I love the column idea since it recognizes worries and also gives us a chance to put down a rational thought and solution. Sometimes seeing something on paper is a great way to reassure ourselves we can do something about our worries. 🙂

    I also connected with your staying away from forums tip. I find most forums are not positive places to be.
    Thanks for sharing!

  13. I struggle so much with this issue as I have a friend that is one and I have a chronic illness myself. I often feel like she should just be happy she doesn’t suffer from any illness rather than worry about what is not. But the more compassionate side of me understands that what she feels in the moment is very real to her

  14. This is such an important post. Over the last few months I’ve definitely found my anxiety getting worse and even though I don’t think its hypochondria related, there are so many useful tips here that can be applied to any kind of anxiety. Congrats on your amazing journey, and thank you for sharing it with us.

  15. Some great tips Jenny! I feel like everyone experiences hypochondria to some degree especially when dealing with something they’ve never experienced before. Personally, I get paranoid that doctors won’t believe me and potentially miss something big.

    Ashleigh | The Ashmosphere

  16. In my experience, hypochondria is something that has sadly always been trivialised and used almost as an insult, but it’s such a real thing. My boyfriend has quite bad health anxiety and it wasn’t until we started dating that I realised how much it can affect a person. It can sometimes be a daily struggle for him which is so sad to see, but this post is filled with very useful tips and ideas x

  17. I love this post! I’m an extremely anxious person and I’m always thinking there’s something wrong with me but instead of always going to the doctors, I’ll avoid it as much as possible even if it’s in my thoughts 247. So great to read about your experience / tips xx

  18. This is great information – a discussion about a condition that SO few people are willing to talk about openly. I love that you include the importance of getting information from a reliable source. With the rise of the internet, there is more misinformation available than ever before! A minor sinus headache can be ‘diagnosed’ in a matter of seconds as a brain tumor. There’s no wonder that so many people are starting to experience anxiety about their health when we have different sources telling us that we’re dying everywhere we turn!

  19. These are actually a few quite helpful tips Jenny! Thank you for writing this post!! I know many people with anxiety and I would love to share this posy with them in hopes that it will help!

  20. This was a huge struggle with me after my first few months as a medical assistant. Everyone I had a symptom, I remembered the worst patient I had and thought the worst. Thanks for these tips! You’re spot on and I hope it helps others, too!!

  21. These are excellent tips! I tend to struggle with it from time to time, so I’ll have to save this post and come back to it. I definitely agree with the one about staying off the forums and the internet in general, as it can be so easy to convince yourself that it’s a lot worse than it is xx

    Hannah | https://luxuryblush.co.uk/

  22. This is a lovely post. I don’t have hypochondria, but my anxiety has ratcheted up like crazy during quarantine, and a lot of that is health related (“Oh God, I was coughing last night, do I have COVID?” That sort of thing). I appreciate all the wonderful advice you offer here, especially acknowledging that no two people experience mental health issues the same way. Yes I think that makes it hard for the health care system to deal with things (since it’s SO hard to find individualized care), but that’s just what we need! Thank you for validating that. Great post!

  23. Having suffered with health anxiety for years, I can totally relate to this post. For me the biggest thing has to be not googling anymore about the things that are worrying me as is just makes me worse! I used to be up for hours going through forums and it’s only now I’ve stopped doing that I’ve realised just how unhelpful they actually were! Love what the nurse said to you at your appointment, that’s SO true xx

    Tiffany x http://www.foodandotherloves.co.uk

  24. Great tips! I love your point on staying off the internet, that can be a huge source of anxiety when there’s so much false information flying around. And avoiding comparison is another really good tip, it’s soul-destroying! Thanks for sharing.

    Anika | chaptersofmay.com

  25. This is a great post and should hopefully help so many others too! I have never been diagnosed but I used to get the shakes at school or if I had to order in a shop/restaurant anything. I hated being put on the spot and my heart used to race so much before bed because I would panic about the next day. I probably should have seen a doctor but I think I was scared. But this is a great post 💛

  26. Great tips. Interesting point about forums, though. Years ago, when I was going through treatment for breast cancer, I connected with an amazing group of women through an online forum. We all supported each other through our treatment and we are still connected through a private Facebook group. I agree that we should avoid “Dr Google” but, in the right circumstance, an online forum can be a fantastic support.

  27. These are amazing tips and I’m so glad to see people being open about Hypochondria. I can totally relate to your experiences, having had a huge health-anxiety related breakdown last year and being in and out of therapy for it ever since. Distraction techniques are definitely my no.1 go to for when I feel the anxiety creeping in – I find that if I even get up and go for walk the anxiety lessens a lot.

    Thank you so much for this post! x

    Amy | Little Lion Books

  28. These are excellent tips.
    I was diagnosed with a chronic illness a few years ago and now every time something’s wrong I’m like “is it my MS or am I actually separately ill?” and sometimes it feels like a rollercoaster. I *need* to see a therapist and I’ve discussed this with my GP and my specialist nurse, but the queue is so long I’m still waiting. And still fretting. And still panicking at every little thing.
    Using a notebook to track everything has really helped, especially when it comes to finding my new normal. And it helps me calm down too, seeing it written down.
    Cora | http://teapartyprincess.co.uk/

  29. This is such a helpful post. It is not something I struggle with thankfully but my partner does. I really struggle to know how to support him around it.

    I will be sharing this with him because I think it’ll really help him and it will certainly allow me to be able to guide him and help when he is feeling this way.

    Thank you so much for sharing x x

  30. This is so, so helpful! Although I don’t have severe health anxiety, my GAD usually has some aspect of ‘OMG you’re going to die’ at every wee ache or pain. Over the last few months I’ve come to like my life, which also means that I don’t want to die and now I’m extra anxious about getting sick. BUT I am working through it and reminding myself that not everything means something. The fact that the doctors aren’t readily taking general appointments at the moment also helps in a strange way because I know I can’t pester them constantly (like I would have done).

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