Health anxiety occurs when a person has excessive health related fears based on interpreting innocuous bodily sensations as a serious medical diagnosis. The resulting anxiety causes significant distress. Individuals with health anxiety have a variety of checking and reassurance seeking behaviors.
Cognitive Behavioral therapies are effective in treating health anxiety. Health anxiety is maintained by misinterpreting sensations in the body. Using cognitive behavioral therapy, you will learn about normal “body noise” that we all experience occasionally. We will work to identify the relationship between your bodily sensations, how you interpret them, and your behavioral response. There are a variety of behaviors that people with health anxiety use to check or find reassurance about health concerns. Learning how to gradually stop checking and seeking reassurance will help you focus on what is important to you. Treating health anxiety will often involve a procedure called interoceptive exposure, where uncomfortable bodily sensations are induced on purpose to practice relating to discomfort in a different way. Intolerance of uncertainty is a theme that creates distress for people with health anxiety. Using acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), you can learn to relate differently to your thoughts of uncertainty.
You will define the pace at which you will work on exposure tasks. ERP tasks will be practiced in the office so that you are coached through it. Practice between sessions is crucial to see good results. We may also take “Field trips” to complete ERP outside the office to wherever you experience triggers, including school, work, or public places.
Helpful Treatment Augmentations
Family therapy is often useful so that your family members have a plan to support you in ways that will help you reach your goals. We will address problematic behaviors that affect your relationships and interfere with your progress. Together, we will find alternative strategies that can help you.
Compassion focused therapy is useful for clients who feel guilty, are self-critical and lack self-compassion.
Medication can be a helpful addition to your therapy. If you are not currently taking medication for your anxiety, and we determine that it may be useful, a referral to a physician will be provided.