Toilet paper shortages.
Masks and gloves.
These are the images and experiences we are encountering daily during the current pandemic. It’s tough to fathom not feeling anxious at this point. And honestly, the anxiety that you are feeling is understandable given so many uncertainties and so many changes.
Health anxiety is the obsessive fear about one’s health and/or the health of a loved one.
Most of the time this comes without clear evidence of a true health concern. For example, you get a headache and you believe you have a tumor. Or you are checking your temperature 10x a day to make sure you don’t have a fever even though you have been measuring at normal.
Health anxiety can be something you’ve always dealt with or can arrive in your life without prior warning. As a whole, many people can relate to experiencing some form of anxiety about health right now. Some of this anxiety is warranted. Indeed, our health is being threatened in a way many of us have never experienced. However, too much health anxiety can be problematic, overwhelming and weaken our immune system. Here are 6 action-steps on how to manage health anxiety during COVID-19.
Don’t Jump to Conclusions
Your initial reaction to the sniffles, a fever, or a cough might be jarring in the current health climate. Furthermore, stress can make us feel more under-the-weather than usual. Consider though that your symptoms could mean a wide variety of things. It is allergy, cold, and flu season on top of COVID-19.
Make a Plan
If you were feeling sick normally, what would you do? You would take your temperature if running a fever. You would be curious about what you might have. If you notice a fever, take a few deep breaths and resist the urge to go on WebMD. It is possible by looking up such symptoms, you might feel worse (both emotionally and physically). Instead, call your doctor to inquire further and receive recommendations about what to do next.
Make it a habit to limit your news intake at this time if you are feeling anxious about your health. You can ask a loved one to keep you updated about any ‘necessary/urgent content’ if you fear being uninformed. There are so many headlines, social media posts, and general talk about health right now. You may not be able to avoid it completely. But you can limit how much you are seeking on purpose.
Focus on What is in Your Control
Many things are out of our personal control. It is helpful to focus on what is in your control instead. You can do this by practicing social distancing, washing hands, sanitizing surfaces, and providing yourself with the proper nutrients. You can plan to have on hand ways to hydrate and take care of yourself if you were to feel ill.
Get a Second Opinion
If you are still worried you might be sick, get a professional opinion. Doctor offices may be over-crowded or short-staffed right now. Some doctors are doing telemedicine consults where they can meet with you over the phone or computer/phone screen instead of in-office. Before starting any over-the-counter or prescription-strength treatments, make sure you consult with your doctor first.
Consider Extra Support
If you are having intense health anxiety, consider getting extra support. With all the concerns related to COVID-19, intense health anxiety could be quite scary to friends and family. It can cause additional worry and stress for those close to you. Consider speaking with someone who specializes in health anxiety to help calm your body.
As always, if you are worried about your own health anxiety or a loved-one’s, you may consult with one of our therapists over the phone or through video to receive professional support. We at Brave Minds Psychological Services, LLC are here to help.
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Julie is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who is passionate about helping her clients overcome depression, anxiety, and stress. She incorporates a mindfulness-based approach into her sessions, helping clients’ courage and strength shine through. Julie specializes in treatment for tweens, teens and young adults.