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Hypochondria and health anxiety

hi sam,

and i’m 16 years old. recently over the past fee months i’ve developed death anxiety, starting with fears of dying and slowly morphing into health anxiety. everyday i feel like there is something wrong with me, and i am constantly stressed or scared that i may be very ill or dying. is there anyway to overcome health anxiety because it’s making my life miserable. thank you.

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Sam

Hi there,

It's natural to want to be healthy, but when the worry of becoming sick takes over everything you do then it has become a problem. When someone worries about their health all the time or thinks they’re sick even when they are not, this is called hypochondria. It's also often called health anxiety and it affects a lot of people at some point in their life.

One of the most difficult things to realise when you have health anxiety is that it's more likely you are well than sick. Sickness comes in lots of different forms and can have many different symptoms. Some symptoms are quite small and don't really affect you physically, but might affect you mentally. We all get odd feelings from time to time - headaches without knowing why, aches and pains and sensations that we worry might be symptoms of something bigger.

One of the most important things to do is to not to suffer with this alone. Telling someone can help because they will be there to reassure you, and help to put things in perspective. Find someone who you trust and who you find calming, and tell them about your anxiety. Having a second opinion from someone can be reassuring and is a good way to not let your anxiety carry you away. Childline have some tips about how to start a conversation with someone about how you’re feeling, or if it’s easier, you could try writing a letter.

One thing that you should try to avoid is looking up symptoms online. There are usually lots of things a symptom might be caused by. Looking this up online will means you’ll get lots of results that look scary, but really have nothing to do with why you’re feeling a certain way. Often the more you think about symptoms, the more you’ll find them even if they aren't really there.

Distracting yourself and focusing on other things is a good way to get out of the cycle of worrying. The NHS also has some good advice for coping with health anxiety that you might find useful. Childline also has some advice about managing your anxiety, and controlling panic attacks, and you can use their message boards to get support from other people who might be struggling with health anxiety.

I hope this has helped, and if you ever need to talk to a counsellor to distract yourself Childline is here for you.

Take care.

Sam

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