Fever, chills, bumps, rash, sore throat, sniffles, headache, oh my – could having any of these symptoms mean you could be seriously ill?
In the era of COVID-19, and now monkeypox, experts have seen an increase in people experiencing anxious feelings about their health. Social networks and the Internet – and so self-consulted medical advice – exacerbate these concerns.
While it’s normal to worry about your health, experts advise against catastrophizing symptoms such as coughing and building unlikely scenarios around health.
They recommend allaying concerns about your health by researching facts about illnesses, but referring to medical professionals for official diagnoses.
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What is hypochondria?
According to Andrew Rosen, founder of the Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders, somatic symptom disorder and illness anxiety disorder, formerly known as hypochondriasis, is excessive fear and preoccupation with illness.
“It’s not just something the person thinks about, if they’re not feeling well, they think about it pretty much all the time, they worry about it, they obsess over it, they lose sleep over it,” Rosen said. “They will very often go to the doctor because of the fear, or they will not go to the doctor at all because of the fear.”
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People with disease-related anxiety disorder, despite medical professionals saying otherwise, will continue to have “irrational, cognitive distortions that something minor is something major,” says Crystal Burwell, a psychotherapist specializing in anxiety.
The differentiating factor between people who are “naturally cautious and concerned about something like COVID or monkeypox” and customers who suffer from illness-related anxiety is that the latter will have seen doctors and have not received no medical diagnosis, but will continue to have “extreme anxiety,” Burwell said.
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Burwell says those with a history of anxiety are most likely to experience illness-related anxiety, as illnesses like COVID-19 and monkeypox will amplify existing conditions.
How has health anxiety changed in 2022?
Although health-related anxiety has worsened in recent years with COVID-19, Rosen says it had already worsened over the past decade due to social media and the availability of information. on our literal. tip of the fingers.
“As soon as they get a funny feeling or a symptom that they think is something, they google it, and they get worse, because they’re looking for the worst thing they can find,” Rosen says.
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Ken Goodman, a licensed clinical social worker, explains that health-related anxiety can also be an extreme reaction to external triggers, such as news stories or social media posts about illnesses like cancer.
“The person with health anxiety would then take…that social media post, exaggerate it in the worst-case scenario, and believe it could happen to them,” says Goodman, board member of the Anxiety and Depression Association of America and creator of “The Anxiety Solution Series” audio program.
How can I deal with anxious feelings about my health?
Experts recommend that people with health anxiety maintain a system that regulates how they approach their worries rationally. One way is to “wait a reasonable period of time” to see if the symptom goes away on its own, and if it doesn’t, see a doctor, Rosen says.
“Don’t go be your own doctor, don’t google it,” Rosen says.
With diseases such as monkeypox spreading, infectious disease ecologist and epidemiologist Jessie Abbate says to remember that monkeypox is not COVID-19.
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“It’s definitely not going to spread as fast as COVID, and it would probably take a decade for the number of people infected with COVID to become infected with monkeypox,” says Abbate.
Burwell suggests taking control of the factors you can, like getting tested if you experience symptoms of COVID-19, but taking care of your emotional health by rethinking how you approach your health issues.
She recommends attributing what you’re going through to factors other than dire scenarios in order to break out of black-and-white thinking.
“Life is usually so gray,” Burwell says.
Contributor: Sara M Moniuszko