CBT for Illness Anxiety Disorder

What is Illness Anxiety Disorder?

Illness Anxiety Disorder, also commonly referred to as Hypochondriasis, describes an individual’s preoccupation and worry regarding their health. Typically, individuals suffering from this disorder will misinterpret normal bodily sensations or minor symptoms as signs of a severe illness, even in the absence of medical evidence to support the illness.

Although many individuals may worry about their health from time to time, for people with Illness Anxiety Disorder, the worry is extreme, uncontrollable, mentally draining, and has the capacity to significantly impact their quality of life.

What are the symptoms of Illness Anxiety Disorder?

  • Being preoccupied with worry about having, or developing, a serious health condition
  • Frequently self-examining, consulting medical professionals
  • Finding no reassurance after receiving negative test results or visiting a doctor
  • Constantly searching the internet for possible symptoms or illnesses
  • Avoiding people or places, in fear of potential health dangers
  • Feeling so worried that it affects one’s quality of life and/or normal level of functioning

When is it time to get help?

“The worry and stress around one’s health can become so draining that it takes a toll on one’s relationships, work, hobbies, family, and overall functioning within society.

Worry about health may be useful at times as it may motivate people to make positive life changes. For example, a little worry might spark someone to eat more healthily and add more exercise into their life. However, when the worry becomes more of a preoccupation, it may be time to get help. The worry and stress around one’s health can become so draining that it takes a toll on one’s relationships, work, hobbies, family, and overall functioning within society. If you find your health concerns are negatively impacting your life, it is likely a good time to seek help.

How CBT can help treat Illness Anxiety Disorder

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a psychological treatment that can be very effective in treating a variety of issues including Illness Anxiety Disorder. CBT helps people reduce and manage their anxiety associated with health and helps people resume their normal way of functioning. More specifically, CBT for Illness Anxiety Disorder involves a variety of aspects including:

  • Learning to identify how physical sensations, worries about health, anxiety, and worry-related behaviours are all inter-connected
  • Learning to identify distorted health anxiety-related fears and to reframe such thoughts to arrive at more adaptive and realistic thoughts (e.g., learning to interpret normal physical sensations in a less catastrophic manner)
  • Reducing excessive reassurance-seeking behaviours including frequent checking of the body, frequent online researching of serious health conditions or diseases, and/or frequent medical consultation
  • Learning skills to better tolerate uncertainty and anxiety associated with worries about health
  • Helping people get back to their normal way of life and functioning

How can the team at Oakville Centre for Cognitive Therapy help?

At Oakville Centre for Cognitive Therapy, we have psychologists with extensive experience in helping individuals learn to stop worrying excessively and to live a more full and enjoyable life. If you have symptoms of Illness Anxiety Disorder, and are interested in receiving evidence-based treatment, please contact us at: 905-338-1397 or admin@oakvillecbt.ca, or via our Contact Us page.

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