I’m terrified of getting ill
Since lockdown, I have met with many clients who are terrified of getting ill. COVID-19 has created panic and anxiety amongst the world’s population. People in the media have not helped the situation either, by referring to COVID-19 as the “invisible killer”. Human beings don’t cope well with uncertainty, and we have had uncertainty in bucketloads for the last few months.
It’s no wonder that’s so many of us have felt anxious and preoccupied with our health. Everyone thinks they may have already had the virus, but many have not had the luxury of getting tested. I have cystic fibrosis and I’m labelled one of the vulnerable people. I have refused to buy into the hype though and get my knickers ina twist over something I have little control over. Apart from being sensible and using common sense, I have tried to get on with my days and not over-analyse the current situation. COVID-19 has left many people feeling helpless and vulnerable. Not knowing much about this new virus means that the initial information we have received has been conflicting and not always reliable.
Not only have we had to deal with the coronavirus, we have also been denied access to our usual forms of healthcare. Care for cystic fibrosis was almost nonexistent for the first few months. This increased my anxiety and no doubt millions of others were in the same position. There have been stories about people needing urgent operations or urgent health care for cancer and they have not been able to receive this treatment either.
Health anxiety has been rife and it’s understandable considering the present circumstances.
How to manage feeling terrified of getting ill
The worst thing that you can do is to focus on something that you cannot control. For many of us, health anxiety will linger until the risk of catching COVID-19 has significantly reduced. It doesn’t help that we have had far too much time to sit around and worry. A mind that is left to wander will find things to worry about – things that may never happen.
Be more aware of where your focus is. If you are terrified of getting ill and deal with your health anxiety by Googling your symptoms, scanning your body regularly for any slight changes (a slight pain, or muscle tweak etc) or seeking reassurance from your family or your doctor, you are maintaining your focus on your worries. It may seem contradictory but dealing with your health anxiety in the above ways is unhelpful. You will feel temporary relief until the next muscle twinge or ache.
Accept that your mind will offer you the worst-case scenarios but you do not have to believe everything you think. The more anxious we become, the more physical symptoms we will notice. When we think worrying thoughts, we activate our internal threat system and this, in turn, manifests in physical symptoms such as increased adrenaline, increased heart rate and other symptoms associated with fight, flight or freeze mode. (see the diagram below for an idea on how anxiety can affect the body).
Look for real evidence of health issues
Learn to distinguish between the reality of the situation (there is most likely nothing wrong with you )and the reality that your thoughts want you to believe ( you are ill and dying ). Look for the evidence could you are actually ill. Evidence refers to a black and white diagnosis, not a suspicion. You will feel less terrified of getting ill, if you can think logically about the situation and remove the fear.
Think logically about your predicament and consider how likely it is but you are seriously ill. Ensure that you resist Googling your symptoms or body scanning regularly and distract yourself when you feel this urge.
Health anxiety and self-compassion
Speak to yourself kindly by saying something like “There I go again, worrying about something that is unlikely.” of course if symptoms persist and you feel steadily worse, you should get yourself checked out but if you know that you have a tendency to worry, it’s time to change your typical reaction pattern.
Health anxiety can be cured, it’s all about what you decided to focus on and how easily you allow yourself to be hijacked by your anxious thoughts. Thoughts aren’t facts, most of our thoughts are misleading little Devils that create unnecessary turmoil. As soon as you realise this and place better filters in the way (it’s just a thought – nothing more), you will find that your health anxiety decreases.
If you are really struggling with health anxiety, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is proven to treat this disorder and will help you to reduce your anxiety. Get in touch if you need added support to overcome your health anxiety.
Image: courtesy of : https://ayoti.in/blog/anxiety-in-women-causes-symptoms-diagnosis-and-treatment/