All of us feel and worry about getting sick from time to time, but some of us worry more than others. We might feel something new happening to our body and see it as a sign of illness. Often, if we have an illness anxiety disorder, we may think the illness we have is serious. There is even a medical term for uncontrollable and persistent fear of having an illness or serious medical condition called Nosophobia.
A similar mental health condition to illness anxiety disorder is Somatic Symptom Disorder. With this condition, we may feel the same constant worry and feelings. However, you’ll also have real symptoms like pain, weakness or shortness of breath. With Somatic Symptom Disorder, although we constantly worry about our symptoms, nothing will show up as the cause of the physical symptoms on medical testing. There is no exact cause, but these are some factors that can make someone more susceptible;
Fear of Being Already Sick: We might interpret normal, everyday sensations, like feeling tired or having to sneeze, as signs that we are sick. This may lead to change in behavior which can further create anxiety because it may put one in stressful, socially awkward positions. It can lead to unnecessary over-the-counter medications when we try to self-treat based on information available on internet and websites.
Fear of Contamination: Given the recent COVID-19 pandemic, we may be afraid to touch certain surfaces or go certain places for fear that we will become sick or take extreme measures to prevent contamination, like avoiding meeting friends and relatives, skipping social events or washing our hands dozens of times a day.
Fear of Financial Instability: A sole earner or provider of a family can stress about dependents having problems if they fall ill and cannot earn a livelihood for a short or long period of time.
Past Experience or Family History: If a close family member had a serious medical condition at a young age, they can develop a fear. A serious childhood illness might make them afraid to feel those symptoms again, and this can make any feelings a concern to us.
Fear and anxiety sometimes protect us from danger and help keep us motivated to stay safe. But excessive anxiety does more harm than good. Here are a few tips to manage anxiety about getting sick.
- We should develop an approach to control what we can, and leave the rest to take its course. Adopt a healthy lifestyle to avoid common illnesses, which will alleviate some of the anxiety.
- Practice hygienic lifestyle practice, wash hands regularly and shower regularly. Use soap, shampoo, body lotion, etc, that have a more natural content.
- Eat a natural, fresh and balanced diet according to age and lifestyle. Explore what foods your particular body needs, wants or enjoys and can processes easily.
- Get active, pick a sport to play regularly or develop habit of exercising regularly.
- Spend more time with friends and family in a lighter environment. If you are comfortable, a hug can say a thousand words. Our body and mind need touch.
- Adapt relaxing habits like deep breathing and meditation even if it is only 10-15 minutes. YouTube has wonderful resources for relaxation and meditation.
- Journal routinely using a free flow technique and you may find the trigger situations for such fear.
- Once you are in trigger situation, distract your attention. Find the technique that works for you.
- Remember you have the power to change this fear or anxiety. With proper guidance, you can overcome this fear and anxiety.
If after trying many of these things and you feel that you need medical support, know that our group of dedicated medical professionals are here to help you achieve the best of you in physical and mental health
Roman Finn, M.D. is a renowned holistic and integrative practitioner with modern ways of utilizing traditional medicine. Call 201-291-0401 for consultation or visit citm-drfinn.com.