Health Anxiety symptoms include excessive worrying about physical or mental illness. Some examples include sexually-transmitted diseases or infections, potentially terminal diseases like cancer, and mental illnesses like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. A person usually fears that unless they scan for, or find any abnormalities, they are putting their physical and/or mental health in jeopardy. This leads a person to engage in excessive checking and researching behaviors. Other symptoms of this disorder can include frequent hospital visits or checking oneself into a psychiatric facility for fear that the onset of a serious mental illness is inevitable..
Compulsive behaviors can become quite costly, both emotionally and financially. Medical bills can accrue when a person starts compulsively visiting their doctor, the emergency room, or a mental health professional. Emotional consequences include rifts in relationships and difficulty concetrating at work. Since a person can engage in checking behaviors nearly all day, it can be challenging to resist urges to internally and externally check on the functioning of the mind and body.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) helps clients learn to manage their symptoms by identifying unhelpful thought patterns and making behavioral changes.
CBT is a collaborative process between the client and therapist. The therapist provides foundational skills and psychoeducation about the client’s symptoms before moving on to behavioral assignments.
Mindfulness training assists clients in building their tolerance for discomfort by learning to simply notice and accept their experiences through guided practices.
Exposure with Response Prevention (ERP) is the main behavioral therapy used to treat anxiety disorders. ERP teaches you to gradually approach anxiety-provoking situations without engaging in safety behaviors, or compulsions.
Effective ERP respects the client’s values while challenging their compulsive behaviors. This means that we have a conversation about the roadmap for recovery before starting ERP and you are in the driver’s seat. I will provide suggestions based on my experience treating clients, but there is always room for feedback and refinement.
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