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Cognitive Therapy Treatment For Health Anxiety

Jun 17, 2008
Health anxiety refers to having a preoccupation with a fear of having a serious illness or disease, despite medical investigations that show the person is healthy. A person with health anxiety will often misinterpret normal physical sensations as a sign of serious illness. For example, flu-like symptoms may be misinterpreted as a sign of HIV and tests that indicate the person is HIV negative may be discounted as unreliable.

Health anxiety can be treated effectively with CBT therapy, Edinburgh. The approach used is very similar to that used for treating Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. This involves helping the person with the anxiety to realise that the current way they are dealing with the worrying health thought and feeling, actually keeps the problem going. Factors that keep the problem going include: trying to block the thought, giving health thoughts over -importance such as "It means I will never get better", constantly seeking reassurance from others, reassuring self with certain phrases or thoughts, looking on the Internet, seeing numerous health practitioners, stopping life activities and giving the thought lots of attention.

CBT therapy, Edinburgh can help you to accept that in fact your problem is not that you have a health problem and must constantly check whether this problem is real, but that your problem is that you worry too much about your health and that this is what's keeping your anxiety going.

A CBT therapist, Edinburgh, will help you become habituated to your anxious health thoughts, which basically means learning to accept your thoughts, let them come and welcome them in. They are just thoughts, not the truth or a prediction of your future. Accepting and letting our thoughts in, will trigger more anxiety at first but if you practice this regularly then your anxiety will naturally fade. This is called exposure therapy and must be done alongside a technique called response prevention, which means not seeking reassurance or trying to make the thoughts feel better!

Practising a form of meditation called mindfulness can help you develop the tools to accept unpleasant thoughts and feelings without trying to change them. This acceptance will mean that you will be able to overcome your problem. It's the worry that is keeping it going.
About the Author
Karen Hastings is a NHS experienced senior mental health occupational therapist, Master NLP practitioner and hypnotherapist. Karen uses hypnotherapy in Edinburgh, along with cognitive therapy and NLP approaches. For more information visit http://www.karenhastings.co.uk
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