Worry provides the illusion of control but the amount of time spent worrying is often extensive but ultimately pointless. Worry about health is just one example. Various deep-seated beliefs play a substantial role in maintaining health anxieties.
If you suffer with health worries you might care to consider which of these common concerns sound familiar.
Worries about the issue of uncertainty go something like this: ‘I’m probably ill if I can’t be completely certain I’m well.’ This rather neatly coincides with another belief, which is ‘unless some fairly extensive tests are undertaken I’ll never be truly certain I’m not ill.’ But as someone who worries a lot about their health this will never be enough precisely because the issue of uncertainty remains.
Because we know medicine isn’t perfect we’ve come to accept that not all results for a clinical investigation are accurate. If everything works as it should a test should prove that either you have or don’t have a problem. Of course we all know it doesn’t always work that way.
Medicine terminology is sometimes a bit odd. A positive result means you actually have a problem, whereas a negative result means you don’t. There is always the possibility of a ‘false positive’ in which we’re told we have a problem when actually we don’t. Then again, a ‘false negative’ tells us there’s no problem when actually there is. People with health worries invariably believe in false negatives. A visit to the doctor may reassure them for a few days but then the doubts creep in. A blood test or some other form of examination may consistently show negative but a lingering doubt exists that the result isn’t revealing the truth, or perhaps the wrong test is being used.
Concerns about your health are perfectly normal. It’s one of the reason we quit smoking, eat balanced diets and stay fit. But people with health worries (health anxiety) believe it may be dangerous not to worry. But one of the main reasons not to worry about health includes the fact that so much time is wasted. None of us can ever be completely certain that you we perfectly healthy. And even if we aren’t perfectly healthy it doesn’t mean we can’t lead a perfectly rounded and fulfilling life. Imagine if you weren’t spending all this time worrying – all the other things you could be doing with your life.
This is all about challenging yourself to see the downside of worry. I know there are certain apparent advantages to worrying, but they are usually short-lived. For example, when you worry about some aspect of health you visit the doctor, or perhaps you seek reassurance from someone. In both examples these may provide short-term relief but that’s it. The effect of repeatedly seeing someone or asking for reassurance is they find it tiresome and you are no further forward.
In the long term it is better to consciously reduce the times you visit or ask for reassurance. You’ll find this an effort the first time, but over time, it will make you feel less worried and anxious.