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Health anxiety - please share what worked/works for you

(22 Posts)
earthyambitions Sun 17-Jan-16 08:40:11

Hi, I am struggling at the moment with (self diagnosed) health anxiety. I have always had this rumbling way in the background but at a manageable level. Over Christmas I had a cancer scare. Test revealed all was fine and I expected to be elated and life return to normal but that hasn't been the case. Instead I alternate between worrying that they have missed something (there is no rational reason to think this), or that I have something else wrong. Every time I turn the TV on or look at Facebook or read a paper there is something about cancer in it reminding me of my concerns. I heard yesterday about a sad story of a teen that died suddenly in his sleep and now have to revisit the urge to check my daughter sleeping. I have lost weight over the last couple of months, approaching a stone and rationally it is because I joined the gym and reduced my sugar intake but I can't help worrying I'm putting it down to that when actually it something else. I am exhausted and I'm sure it's mostly due to the anxiety.

Generally I am quite a practical person so I see this as a problem that I need to formulate a plan to tackle. I figure that will also help me feel more in control too. So far I have...
Set myself a healthy target each week to improve my over all health eg. This weeks is to drink more water.
Restarted mindfulness meditation - I am hoping living more in the moment will help.

I am really interested in things other people have tried that have helped. I am determined not to let this be a dominant feature in my life.

hefzi Sun 17-Jan-16 21:53:37

CBT - you can either go privately, or refer yourself through your GP/by googling IAPT + your area. I was reading about health anxiety the other day (and I think someone else has posted on it quite recently) and the article linked it with OCD, and said that CBT was the most successful way of combatting it, as it teaches you to deal with intrusive thoughts (which is what those fears are).

Good Luck!

blueblah Sun 17-Jan-16 21:55:05

definitely CBT, got mine on NHS for health anxiety and phobias and helped me no end. smile

earthyambitions Mon 18-Jan-16 19:28:00

Thank you, I'll definitely look into cbt.

HPFA Wed 20-Jan-16 15:32:01

I have suffered with both generalized anxiety and Health anxiety specifically and have found learning mindfulness meditation by far the most helpful thing I have ever tried. I would recommend these two books 1.Penman and Williams - Mindfulness: a practical guide. This is an eight-week course - very practical and the CD is great - really soothing and gentle. The structured programme is really helpful and makes you feel you're achieving something!
2. Padraig O'Morain - Mindfulness for Worriers. This takes a different approach - gives you lots of different exercises you can try when you feel the anxiety sweeping over you.

Specifically for Health Anxiety - this is how it works for me:

I'll find myself thinking something along the lines of "Wouldn't it be awful if I was to have a stroke" As soon as I notice that thought I think "Oh, I'm having that stroke thought again" then I carry on with whatever I'm doing. And usually a bit later on in the day I'll realise I've forgotten about it.

It took me a while to get to this point ( I've obviously simplified the process) and I still wish I didn't have the stroke thought in the first place
but at least I'm now having a life! It is important to realise that the aim of mindfulness is NOT to force the thought away but to allow it to exist without getting caught up in it. It's the one disadvantage of mindfulness that it does take time to understand this - if only there was an instant cure! My very best wishes to you - with your obvious determination I am quite sure you will find the right way for you.

Jo4040 Wed 20-Jan-16 15:36:52

Hi OP. I also have health anxiety and it can absolutely consume me. I can't even mediate or read because I think I lf I sit still for long enough things in my body will go 'stale' and it will turn into cancer.

I totally sympathise with you. You need to get this sorted out now and quick. Iv lived like this for the past 8 years. Take peoples advise and use it.

flowers

earthyambitions Thu 21-Jan-16 21:19:40

Thank you so much for taking the time to reply. It's good to know I'm not alone with this.

I have found the mindfulness is already helping a little. I have done it before to help anxiety and I think I am responding quicker to it because of that. I am findings I am not focusing on the anxieties for as long. Having a bit of a blip this evening, not sure why but I have pain in my right side which I have now convinced myself is ovarian cancer despite no other symptoms whatsoever and it starting since I have been sat with my legs curled up on the sofa. I find sometimes if I say these things outloud the absurdity of thoughts is easier to recognise. I have also realised I have nothing in to take for lunch tomorrow and am fighting a panic about having to eat non organic food despite having chosen at lunch today to eat a very non organic cookie.

If anyone else feels it would help to talk and support each other living with this I'd certainly appreciate a bit of handholding from people who genuinely understand.

earthyambitions Thu 21-Jan-16 21:23:34

HPFA - I tried the 'there's that cancer thought again' technique thing today. I can see how it could help me neither dwell on nor try to block the thoughts.

I've also read more about it being a form of ocd which makes a lot of sense really when you think about it.

StokeyMama87 Fri 22-Jan-16 12:15:59

Sorry to hear that earthyambition s- I've struggled with anxiety and depression my whole life - and know how isolating it feels.

I find mindfulness incredibly helpful, as well as -sorry!- cutting out alcohol and caffeine. Also a half hour walk per day.

I found this helpful too:

www.culturewhisper.com/whisper/view/id/6262

earthyambitions Fri 22-Jan-16 16:51:54

There's some fab stuff on that website, thanks! I have cut out alcohol altogether since the latest cancer links in the media. I have reduced caffeine to 2-3 cups of tea or coffee a day but perhaps I need to cut it out altogether and see if that helps. I go to the gym 2-3 times a week but maybe need to make myself do more exercise too. I've improved my diet generally mostly for my physical health rather than mental health. I'm eating more fruit and veg and have switched to mostly organic everything. I'll try anything to be honest! Still got the pain and still obsessing over it 😕

Jo4040 Fri 22-Jan-16 18:58:16

Well...it's not really good to know that your not alone in this...because that means others are suffering similar exhausting thoughts that you are...

However... I sympathise greatly with you about how you must be feeling.

You don't have Ovarian cancer, I'd your anything like me, you will be tensed up or something causing that pain because your thinking about that side of your body.

It's good that your exercising,that will help lots. It is a doem of OCD, I am also paranoid of germs and I clean obsessively.

Do you/Can you hide the way you feel to others? I know I can and do and people would be abit shocked if they realised the way I think...

HPFA Fri 22-Jan-16 19:29:00

Earthyambitions - I am really sorry about your pain - I hope you feel better soon. Sometimes when I have scary symptoms it helps to remind myself that anyone would be scared by them! I once found a lump under my armpit in the shower - would anyone NOT panic in that moment?
I guess the non-Health Anxious are better at accepting reassurance than we are and less inclined to torment themselves with the things that might happen.

earthyambitions Fri 22-Jan-16 20:46:50

Thanks again. I have only told three people in real life how I'm feeling and none of them really know the full extent. Most people would indeed be shocked to find out what it's like in my head.
A friend said similar HPFA, she said anyone would have panicked about the cancer scare like I did, it's normal to feel anxious about it. It's just that my anxieties haven't switched off.

HPFA Sat 23-Jan-16 07:18:29

I love this article here www.nomorepanic.co.uk/articles/healthanxiety. The section on how the media feeds our anxieties is priceless. There's some very sensible advice on here too.

Wadingthroughsoup Sat 23-Jan-16 07:39:47

I could have written your posts earthy (in fact my latest worry was ovarian cancer too!) I have been suffering with health anxiety for the past two years since I lost my parents to cancer.

In that time, I have had two mammograms, two mole scans and a pelvic scan, along with numerous blood tests because I'm convinced I have cancer.

I am on 200mg Sertraline, and on a waiting list for CBT. I also do yoga and exercise a lot, as well as being careful with what I eat. I really want to start meditating again but never seem to make time for it!

I'm doing ok this week but it comes and goes. I get the sense it's always going to be a bit of a struggle but hopefully I will get to a point where I can cope with it a bit better.

Wadingthroughsoup Sat 23-Jan-16 07:46:09

Also meant to say- my biggest problem is Googling stuff. Whenever I get the slightest change or sensation somewhere in my body, I tend to think of it as a 'symptom' and start trawling the Internet. This is massively unhelpful because of course, pretty much anything can be a symptom of cancer! I spoke to a counsellor from the MH organisation who will be providing my CBT and she suggested that if it's too difficult to not Google at all, I could try to restrict myself to only reading the NHS website so that at least I'm looking at accurate information rather than reading forums of cancer patients or articles from unreliable sources.

This week, I've managed (mostly) not to Google health stuff at all- so it's no coincidence that I'm having a good week anxiety-wise!

closephine85 Sat 23-Jan-16 08:08:37

Could I join this thread? smile I also suffer from terrible health anxiety. It is magnified at the moment because I am also experiencing secondary infertility and I can't shake the thought that there is something underlying and life threatening going on in my body causing it (even though I've had a lot of tests and everything has been ok).

Did it get worse for anyone else when they had children? Since having my son 4 years ago i find mine has sky rocketed due to the thought that I have so much more to lose now/leave behind! It's no way to live really is it?

I sympathize op even if I can't offer anything overly constructive right now as I'm in a similar mindset to you!

earthyambitions Sat 23-Jan-16 09:23:47

Wading I really struggle with Google too, can't help googling every little thing. I'm almost not satisfied with my search each time anyway because I go on to look again just to see if something new comes up.

Closephine mine definitely got worse when I had my daughter made worse by me having had complications that could well have killed me during her birth. My biggest fear is leaving her or losing her.

MsMoonKat Sun 24-Jan-16 22:43:11

I too suffer massively with health anxiety. I've just put my poor family through a month of hell convinced I had some sort of gastrointestinal cancer, I even managed to convince them too. After colonoscopy, endoscopy, ultrasound and a ct scan I got the all clear yesterday....but I don't feel relieved and all better...no now I am convinced I have a tumour behind my eye...it's like it never ends! I have signed up for CBT and the latest doctor I have seen has recommended a low dose of nortryptaline. I didn't want to go on medication either but I think I have to for my families sake if nothing else.

Jo4040 Mon 25-Jan-16 19:51:30

MsMooncat? How does it affect your day to day life?

Do.you work? How do you function when your worrying?

When I'm worried something is wrong, I go to bed and sleep. I stop eating. It's all I think about.

Toots16 Wed 27-Jan-16 18:09:42

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Jo4040 Wed 27-Jan-16 18:34:44

That's why I sleep. It's the only time I genuinely switch of. If something about my health frightens me then I instantly get tired and just want to sleep. It's a copjng mechanism. However in the morning I really don't want to wake up neither.

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