If you have severe health anxiety, you may have dysfunctional beliefs about your health and illness. These are known as core beliefs. Core beliefs usually arise early in life through personally significant life experiences.
Perhaps you grew up with a sick family member or watched a loved one suffer from an illness. Or perhaps certain experiences have made you feel unsafe in life and have taught you to be aware of potential threats and dangers. rice field.
How Dysfunctional Beliefs About Health and Disease Develop
Once your health beliefs are solidified, the strengthening process begins. Essentially, you began scanning your environment and selectively paying attention to all the “evidence” that supported your belief system.
You may have paid special attention to situations where a loved one is suffering from an illness. You may have read about various diseases online or in medical books. You may have seen movies or read books about people suffering from illness. You probably paid much more attention to stories about sickness and death than to all the people and situations around you that represented health and wellness.
As a result of all this, you have developed a very biased and distorted view of health and disease. Ultimately, your dysfunctional beliefs have become reinforced as they have been reinforced by years of selective attention.
How Dysfunctional Beliefs Exacerbate Health Anxiety
There is a process by which dysfunctional beliefs about health increase health anxiety. Your dysfunctional beliefs drive you to worry about illness and engage in so-called “body vigilance.” Body vigilance means paying close attention to all bodily sensations and symptoms.
You then misinterpret any vague or benign symptom as a sign of a potential health problem, and then come up with a “catastrophe” or worst-case scenario for that symptom or bodily sensation (i.e., “this heart A flutter is the beginning of a heart attack.”). These conclusions naturally increase anxiety and engage in safety behaviors (e.g., googling symptoms, seeking reassurance, excessive body checking) to reduce anxiety, which only exacerbate anxiety. is. This further reinforces dysfunctional beliefs and starts the cycle all over again.
How to improve health anxiety
The key to overcoming health anxiety is to disrupt this dysfunctional process. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) targets each of these elements. Challenge twisted thinking with Socratic dialogue and logic-based questions. We are working on exposure exercises to improve our tolerance for bodily sensations and reduce the use of safety behaviors. We reshape dysfunctional core beliefs into more accurate and adaptive beliefs. CBT to the rescue!
To find a therapist near you, visit the Psychology Today Therapy Directory.