Many children, teens and adults live in daily terror about being seriously ill, or even terminally ill, when no symptoms of serious illness exist. They misinterpret normal bodily sensations or physical symptoms as being dangerous and life-threatening. Reassurance from friends, spouses, diagnostic testing or reassurance from health care professionals may provide temporary relief, but the fears return anyway. These patients may make many unnecessary visits to the doctor. They may repeatedly undergo unnecessary medical testing and procedures. Paradoxically, some with these health-related concerns may end up avoiding any contact with health care providers for fear that they receive bad news.
Treatment for health anxiety includes cognitive therapy to learn to tolerate uncertainty about health status and physical sensations, exposure therapy and imaginal flooding to learn to tolerate feared thoughts about death and illness. Interoceptive exposure is used to help patients learn to tolerate normal changes in physical sensations.
Staff at The Anxiety Treatment Center of Greater Chicago have specialized experience in helping patients overcome health anxiety so that they can learn to enjoy their good health and stop fearing poor health, disability or terminal illness. Our team helps patients learn when it is appropriate to contact their health care providers and when to seek out health-related information. We will also work with your health care provider to help them know how to best help you when your health fears become problematic.
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