Health anxiety is a form of anxiety where worrying, obsessing about health problems and fixating on sensations in the body manifests in a variety of physical symptoms which, in turn, creates anxiety that fuels the problem. However, anxiety in general does affect the body, so for those with health anxiety, these things become a particular concern.
The brain is perfectly designed to keep us safe which activates in the event of a crisis, emergency or danger and has a very fast acting mechanism, faster than we can consciously process incoming information. The central and influential part of this early warning system is called the amygdala and reacts automatically to what it perceives as danger. So, if you were to go outside and come face to face with a big angry polar bear, you wouldn’t stand there wondering what on earth had happened to global warming trying to figure out why a polar bear was in your garden, your brain and your body would take over to get you out of there to safety.
Of course, an angry polar bear is a real danger, but it is important to understand that the brain doesn’t know the difference between reality and imagination. Using modern technology such as MRI and PET scanners, scientists have been able to show that the same areas of the brain light up to a real stimulus or an imagined one. For example, if two people were to have a brain scan, one person listening to a recording of a voice while the other, suffering from psychosis not being played a recording of a voice but instead hearing imagined voices, the same parts of the brain responsible for voice recognition would light up. In this way, the amygdala automatically reacts to real dangers or imagined ones such as worrying, what if-ing and negative thinking in general.
When the amygdala, often referred to as the flight/fight part of the brain, reacts it creates a chain reaction in the body designed to cope with an emergency, crisis or danger: –
- The heart rate increases
- Breathing increases
- A rush of oxygen, in the way of red blood cells is sent to parts of the body needed for fighting or running away, namely the major muscle groups, legs, back, shoulders, neck and arms
- Extra oxygen is sent to the brain which needs to stay sharp and focused
- Muscles constrict ready for action
- Blood is sent to the surface of the skin (you can often observe this when people blush)
- You can often feel the hormone adrenalin that is released in the pit of your stomach.
Now this is perfectly normal and useful when running away from angry polar bears and when you’re safe, the system calms down, you relax, and your body returns to its normal tick over status. However, for people with health anxiety these normal physical symptoms of being in flight or fight become a concern and they worry about them, focusing on their heart rate or breathing, perpetuating the problem.
The result is that the body get stuck in this flight/fight mode and it becomes a vicious cycle. Over time these prolonged changes in the body can cause other physical sensations or problems as the body is not equipped to remain so alert and ready for danger including.
- Back pain
- Neck and shoulder pain
- Headaches and migraines
- Restless leg syndrome
- And your mind never seems to switch off
Furthermore, energy is redirected from other parts of the body not necessary for coping with emergency, crisis or danger, including the whole digestive system and reproductive organs which can lead to conditions such as IBS, lack of libido, sexual disfunction and fertility difficulties.
The good news is however, by understanding how the mind is creating this vicious cycle and with a bit of retaining through hypnotherapy and relaxation, the body and mind can be encouraged to return to tick over and the obsessing about health fades away.
If you suffer from anxiety related disorders and would like a free initial consultation to find out how hypnotherapy can help you, either online or in the Swindon clinic, please use the contact us page or call us on 0330 223 2190.
More about Anxiety and OCD
Free Gift for February. Download the newest hypnosis track from Old Town Hypnotherapy absolutely free, no email address needed, no strings attached, just free.
Author & Video - Emma Triplett Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay Worrying about health and/or death are arguably amongst of the most common symptoms of anxiety but for some health becomes the sole focus of their anxiety and is given the term health anxiety....
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder can be hard to ignore if you’re living with someone who has it. The temptation is to buy into the OCD and either join the person helping out with their obsession by buying wet-wipes for the person with a germ OCD for example, or to try and stop them carrying out their habits or rituals, encourage them to resist the compulsion. What should you do for the best?
Can hypnotherapy actually help anxiety. A review of scientific studies suggests that hypnosis can help, but hypnosis is a tool that must be used alongside proven therapeutic techniques for anxiety to have any long term benefits.
One in four people, that’s a quarter of us, will at some time experience mental health problems during their life. It’s an astounding statistic from the World Health Organisation and according to a report by Mind there has been an increase from 15.5 per cent in 1993 to 26 per cent of adults reported having ever been diagnosed with at least one mental health problem in 2014. Many mental health problems including OCD, self-harm, eating disorders, insomnia and many physical problems are anxiety related, so why is anxiety increasing so rapidly.
At first glance anxiety and depression are very similar, they feel different; anxiety being fearful and worried whilst depression is feeling miserable, but you can have both at the same time. They are in fact interestingly similar and in this article we going to have a look at some of the similarities and differences both in the way they develop and in the way they are cured.
This is the third instalment of my mini series on anxiety in which I’m going to give you some top tips for dealing with anxiety when it strikes, but also ultimate strategies to reduce the positive feedback loop that’s creating the anxiety described in the last article ‘Where does anxiety come from?’
In the last article ‘Will anxiety ever go away?’ I described the typical characteristic thought patterns the primitive part of your brain displays when anxiety arises and why it can feel like a life sentence. In this article, for those of you who like to understand the science and what is happening to you psychologically and biologically, I’ve gone in depth with the science of the stress response as, for many, it helps knowing it is a normal physiological response that has an on/off switch. So, here we go, sit tight for the science…
For those suffering from anxiety (or depression) it can feel like a life sentence, but the ironic truth is that the characteristic thought patterns associated with these conditions are what manifest those no hope feelings and despair. Anxiety can and will go away when you develop the skills and strategies to interrupt the negative thought pattern loop. This video is the first in a three part series about how to help anxiety.
The Secret To Beating The Winter Blues Author - Emma Triplett What is SAD It's that time of year again, August is over, schools are going back any day now, we're digging out winter woollies and, for some the black cloud of SAD is gathering. SAD or Seasonal Affective...