I am dealing with health anxiety(hypochondriasis)

I am always finding a new disease to worry about. Thought i had brain tumor, leukemia, epilepsy, seizures etc. now i deal with head/ear pressure which im thinking it’s because of my anxiety that i had previously. I keep thinking i have something wrong with the neurology aspect. I also deal with mental health anxiety. I just constantly feel like i have a new symptom that’s a signal for a bad disease.
Asked by Mendyy
Answered
12/05/2021

Hello Mendyy,

I am glad you reached out for support at this time.  I am sorry you are struggling in this moment.  I would encourage you to start to work with a therapist to help you learn skills to help you overcome your struggles.  If we were to meet I would first talk to you about the counseling process through our site and how together we could help you obtain your goals going forward, how I work as a counselor and how I would try to help you through the counseling process.  

I would also take the first session to get to know you by asking you a few questions to get a better understanding of your struggles, so that I am able to focus on a plan and goals to work on going forward. I want you to know that you are not alone during this time even through you may feel like you are alone at this time.  During the therapy process you can have support 100% of the time as you are able to reach out and talk to a therapist 24 hours a day 7 days a week.  

I am going to send you some skills and tools to help you during this time of struggle you are having.  If we were to work together we would be going over these and more tools to help you through our struggles and be able to ask for support from others.

Sometimes, when you feel stressed or even overwhelmed, it isn't easy to stay focused. I just wanted to give a few tips on what may be causing this distraction. I am giving you these strategies so you can begin to implement them and consider the triggers/stressors impacting your thoughts, how you feel, and your behaviors (energy, motivation, etc.).





High-stress levels - When you have a lot going on and face high levels of stress, it is more likely that your attention span will be shorter and that you'll have trouble focusing on the task at hand. Are there certain things you can recognize that may be causing you to feel stressed out? Have you been ruminating about it and playing this thought in your head over and over again? Let me give you an example of how stress can be distracting and cause negative thoughts. Imagine going to a picnic on a beautiful warm summer day. The wind is light, the sun is shining, and the food is delicious. You are sitting in a grassy field and just daydreaming of this beautiful moment. All of a sudden, these feisty little ants show up and start to ruin the moment. They are crawling all over the blanket, one got on your sandwich, and now your beautiful moment is ruined by these little ants. When you are trying to enjoy the day and focus on being in the moment, sometimes these Automatic Negative Thoughts (ANTS) ruin the moment. If you find that ANTS continues to destroy your peace, we can work on that more in the session.



Your environment - Is your workspace or home cluttered with things? Do you have trouble finding what you need when you need it? This could be why you cannot focus and concentrate. Sometimes your environment is a major stressor that contributes to why you are distracted. What right now in your environment might be causing you to feel discomfort? Poor diet - Eating a lot of junk food or not eating enough can cause irritability, and even overeating can be the root cause of distraction. Your brain needs a certain amount of essential nutrients to focus and stop thinking, so depriving yourself of that changes your productivity. That's why it's critical to eat well if you want to focus. Social Media - Do you often find yourself checking your phone, Facebook, or personal emails while you are supposed to be working or spending quality time with loved ones? The constant stream of information coming from technology is a common cause of distraction. Not to mention, it is an easy trigger and could leave you vulnerable to comparisons. How much time do you spend on social media? Lack of sleep - If you're not getting enough rest and sleep at night, you are more likely to concentrate effectively during the day. Have a healthy nighttime routine and give yourself a l

I am talking about negative self-talk and reminding you to T.H.I.N.K. Sometimes when you are triggered by something, you will ruminate on it for a while. Rumination can convince you of things that can make you feel anxious and worried about yourself or the things that are happening in your life. Ruminating happens when you try to figure out a solution to a problem and keep getting stuck. Sometimes you may feel guilt, resentment, anger, embarrassment, and even sadness. This may cause a lot of negative self-talk. You may overexplain yourself (emotional vomiting) and obsessive attention to overanalyzing decisions in some cases. You may also tend to overvalue your relationships with other people so much that you'll make large personal sacrifices to maintain these relationships, even if they're not working for you. This can leave you feeling unimportant, devalued, and unappreciated. This is when negative thinking errors and negative self-talk begins. This creates core beliefs about yourself that may not be true. The more you ruminate and think, the more your negative self-talk creates beliefs. Core beliefs are central beliefs that you have about yourself, others, and the world. Many of your beliefs have been created at an early age. These beliefs and negative self-talk present in messages such as, "I am unlovable," or "people can't be trusted," "I am not good enough," "the whole world is bad," etc. When you start to ruminate and have negative thoughts that start to create beliefs, I want you to remember this acronym T.H.I.N.K!!

Is it Truthful?

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When you start to have certain beliefs that are ANTS (automatic negative thoughts), you do not have to accept this belief as to the truth about yourself and life. So other than your thoughts, are there other factual things that would contradict (go against) your beliefs? For example,

o     

Core Belief: "I am a loser; I never do anything right." Accepting this belief would be: I missed a deadline at work (confirming your negative thought/belief) Rejecting this belief would be: Although I missed this one deadline, I am always on time and mostly turn in all of my work on time. Modifying that belief (to change it, so it confirms your negative belief):

§   

The boss says, "Great job on meeting the deadline." Modified thought: They are just saying that they do not mean it! Is it Helpful?

·          

If you realize your thoughts are only reaping havoc, do not lay down and take it. Stop getting beat up by your thoughts, even if it is difficult for you to see past your own beliefs about yourself. If the thought is not helpful, just let it go. Try taking action and doing something else. Is it Insightful? Is this thought helping you solve the problem? Or is this thought about creating new problems? Try to find the smallest solution that you can resolve. Try to find out something you can do at the moment while you are ruminating. If all you are coming up with are problems, then this is all you will see. Is it Necessary? What you are thinking about at the moment. Is it something that actually has to be resolved right now? Is this a current problem that needs resolution, or did something already occur in the past, and you cannot let it go? Try to stay present...if it is not a problem RIGHT NOW, then stay connected to things you can do today. Is it Kind? If you realize that most of your thoughts are negative, you know maybe it's just your beliefs. Are you being kind to yourself and treating yourself with respect? Sometimes, when you are in a low mood, you are not even kind to yourself. You self-criticize, self-judge, and self-blame. Sometimes this is suppressed and then projects as resentments to other people and how you view the world. Try to be a bit nicer to yourself!

Do you find that you struggle with anxiety or overthinking about things going on either in your life or your future? Know that you are not alone, today I am going to send you reading and skills to help you ground yourself when you are struggling.  What is grounding you may ask? Grounding is using skills to help you physically ground yourself when you are struggling with feeling anxious or racing thoughts. Grounding is a practice that can help you pull away from flashbacks, unwanted memories, and negative or challenging emotions and allows you to focus on what is happening at the moment.  It allows for you to focus on real items or things that you can either see, touch or smell at that moment to help you refocus your mind and help to calm yourself down. 

These techniques may help distract you from what you’re experiencing and refocus on what’s happening in the present moment.

Physical techniques

These techniques use your five senses or tangible objects — things you can touch — to help you move through distress.

1. Put your hands in water

Focus on the water’s temperature and how it feels on your fingertips, palms, and the backs of your hands. Does it feel the same in each part of your hand?

Use warm water first, then cold. Next, try cold water first, then warm. Does it feel different to switch from cold to warm water versus warm to cold?

2. Pick up or touch items near you

Are the things you touch soft or hard? Heavy or light? Warm or cool? Focus on the texture and color of each item. Challenge yourself to think of specific colors, such as crimson, burgundy, indigo, or turquoise, instead of simply red or blue.

3. Breathe deeply

Slowly inhale, then exhale. If it helps, you can say or think “in” and “out” with each breath. Feel each breath filling your lungs and note how it feels to push it back out.

4. Savor a food or drink

Take small bites or sips of a food or beverage you enjoy, letting yourself fully taste each bite. Think about how it tastes and smells and the flavors that linger on your tongue.

5. Take a short walk

Concentrate on your steps — you can even count them. Notice the rhythm of your footsteps and how it feels to put your foot on the ground and then lift it again.

6. Hold a piece of ice

What does it feel like at first? How long does it take to start melting? How does the sensation change when the ice begins to melt?

7. Savor a scent

Is there a fragrance that appeals to you? This might be a cup of tea, an herb or spice, a favorite soap, or a scented candle. Inhale the fragrance slowly and deeply and try to note its qualities (sweet, spicy, sharp, citrusy, and so on).

8. Move your body

Do a few exercises or stretches. You could try jumping jacks, jumping up and down, jumping rope, jogging in place, or stretching different muscle groups one by one.

Pay attention to how your body feels with each movement and when your hands or feet touch the floor or move through the air. How does the floor feel against your feet and hands? If you jump rope, listen to the sound of the rope in the air and when it hits the ground.

9. Listen to your surroundings

Take a few moments to listen to the noises around you. Do you hear birds? Dogs barking? Machinery or traffic? If you hear people talking, what are they saying? Do you recognize the language? Let the sounds wash over you and remind you where you are.

10. Feel your body

You can do this sitting or standing. Focus on how your body feels from head to toe, noticing each part.

Can you feel your hair on your shoulders or forehead? Glasses on your ears or nose? The weight of your shirt on your shoulders? Do your arms feel loose or stiff at your sides? Can you feel your heartbeat? Is it rapid or steady? Does your stomach feel full, or are you hungry? Are your legs crossed, or are your feet resting on the floor? Is your back straight?

Curl your fingers and wiggle your toes. Are you barefoot or in shoes? How does the floor feel against your feet?

11. Try the 5-4-3-2-1 method

Working backward from 5, use your senses to list things you notice around you. For example, you might start by listing five things you hear, then four things you see, then three things you can touch from where you’re sitting, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste.

Make an effort to notice the little things you might not always pay attention to, such as the color of the flecks in the carpet or the hum of your computer.

Mental techniques

These grounding exercises use mental distractions to help redirect your thoughts away from distressing feelings and back to the present.

12. Play a memory game

Look at a detailed photograph or picture (like a cityscape or other “busy” scene) for 5 to 10 seconds. Then, turn the photograph face-down and recreate the photograph in your mind, in as much detail as possible. Or, you can mentally list all the things you remember from the picture.

13. Think in categories

Choose one or two broad categories, such as “musical instruments,” “ice cream flavors,” “mammals,” or “baseball teams.” Take a minute or two to mentally list as many things from each category as you can.

14. Use math and numbers

Even if you aren’t a math person, numbers can help center you.

Try:

running through a times table in your head. counting backward from 100 choosing a number and thinking of five ways you could make the number (6 + 11 = 17, 20 – 3 = 17, 8 × 2 + 1 = 17, etc.)

15. Recite something

Think of a poem, song, or book passage you know by heart. Recite it quietly to yourself or in your head. If you say the words aloud, focus on the shape of each word on your lips and in your mouth. If you say the words in your head, visualize each word as you’d see it on a page.

16. Make yourself laugh

Make up a silly joke — the kind you’d find on a candy wrapper or popsicle stick.

You might also make yourself laugh by watching your favorite funny animal video, a clip from a comedian or TV show you enjoy, or anything else you know will make you laugh.

17. Use an anchoring phrase

This might be something like, “I’m Full Name. I’m X years old. I live in City, State. Today is Friday, June 3. It’s 10:04 in the morning. I’m sitting at my desk at work. There’s no one else in the room.”

You can expand on the phrase by adding details until you feel calm, such as, “It’s raining lightly, but I can still see the sun. It’s my break time. I’m thirsty, so I’m going to make a cup of tea.”

18. Visualize a daily task you enjoy or don’t mind doing

If you like doing laundry, for example, think about how you’d put away a finished load.

“The clothes feel warm coming out of the dryer. They’re soft and a little stiff at the same time. They feel light in the basket, even though they spill over the top. I’m spreading them out over the bed so they won’t wrinkle. I’m folding the towels first, shaking them out before folding them into halves, then thirds,” and so on.

19. Describe a common task

Think of an activity you do often or can do very well, such as making coffee, locking up your office, or tuning a guitar. Go through the process step-by-step, as if you’re giving someone else instructions on how to do it.

20. Imagine yourself leaving the painful feelings behind

Picture yourself:

gathering the emotions, balling them up, and putting them into a box walking, swimming, biking, or jogging away from painful feelings imagining your thoughts as a song or TV show you dislike, changing the channel or turning down the volume — they’re still there, but you don’t have to listen to them.

21. Describe what’s around you

Spend a few minutes taking in your surroundings and noting what you see. Use all five senses to provide as much detail as possible. “This bench is red, but the bench over there is green. It’s warm under my jeans since I’m sitting in the sun. It feels rough, but there aren’t any splinters. The grass is yellow and dry. The air smells like smoke. I hear kids having fun and two dogs barking.”

Soothing techniques

You can use these techniques to comfort yourself in times of emotional distress. These exercises can help promote good feelings that may help the negative feelings fade or seem less overwhelming.

22. Picture the voice or face of someone you love

If you feel upset or distressed, visualize someone positive in your life. Imagine their face or think of what their voice sounds like. Imagine them telling you that the moment is tough, but that you’ll get through it.

23. Practice self-kindness

Repeat kind, compassionate phrases to yourself:

“You’re having a rough time, but you’ll make it through.” “You’re strong, and you can move through this pain.” “You’re trying hard, and you’re doing your best.”

Say it, either aloud or in your head, as many times as you need.

24. Sit with your pet

If you’re at home and have a pet, spend a few moments just sitting with them. If they’re of the furry variety, pet them, focusing on how their fur feels. Focus on their markings or unique characteristics. If you have a smaller pet you can hold, concentrate on how they feel in your hand.

Not at home? Think of your favorite things about your pet or how they would comfort you if they were there.

25. List favorites

List three favorite things in several different categories, such as foods, trees, songs, movies, books, places, and so on.

26. Visualize your favorite place

Think of your favorite place, whether it’s the home of a loved one or a foreign country. Use all of your senses to create a mental image. Think of the colors you see, sounds you hear, and sensations you feel on your skin.

Remember the last time you were there. Who were you with, if anyone? What did you do there? How did you feel?

27. Plan an activity

This might be something you do alone or with a friend or loved one. Think of what you’ll do and when. Maybe you’ll go to dinner, take a walk on the beach, see a movie you’ve been looking forward to, or visit a museum.

Focus on the details, such as what you’ll wear, when you’ll go, and how you’ll get there.

28. Touch something comforting

This could be your favorite blanket, a much-loved T-shirt, a smooth stone, a soft carpet, or anything that feels good to touch. Think about how it feels under your fingers or in your hand.

If you have a favorite sweater, scarf, or pair of socks, put them on and spend a moment thinking about the sensation of the fabric on your skin.

29. List positive things

Write or mentally list four or five things in your life that bring you joy, visualizing each of them briefly.

30. Listen to music

Put on your favorite song, but pretend you’re listening to it for the first time. Focus on the melody and lyrics (if there are any). Does the song give you chills or create any other physical sensations? Pay attention to the parts that stand out most to you.

I hope that these skills have been helpful for you in your struggles you have been facing at this time. I am going to give you my information if you are wanting to start to process through and work on your struggles going forward, please reach out to Betterhelp and ask to be matched with Crystal Westman. If we were to work together we would work on more skills and tools to help you when you are struggling and get back to a positive space.  I encourage you to reach out for support at this time to help you get to the best version of yourself.