Illness anxiety disorder, formerly known as hypochondria, refers to a preoccupation with one’s health and concern over having a medical disease. Disproportionate worry about harmless bodily changes, such as an ache or mild pain, causes impairment in daily functioning. An individual becomes excessively concerned about having an undiagnosed medical illness or developing a severe illness. This concern can lead to time-consuming appointments at a healthcare provider’s office or requesting unnecessary lab work and medical testing. These safety behaviors are common with illness anxiety disorder.
Despite confirmation from a medical expert or other trusted person, you become consumed with doubt that you may be sick. Somatic sensations become magnified and are misperceived as dangerous. You may be hypervigilant to even benign bodily changes. Worrying about cancer recurrence, fear of a heart attack, and scared of pain are just some of the common concerns that trigger health anxiety.
Somatic Symptom Disorder is a related issue, focusing on those who are preoccupied with noticeable somatic sensations. An individual experiencing pain may become overly worried about these sensations despite the assurance that the pain is benign.
Treatments for Healthy Anxiety
Fortunately, psychological counseling has been shown to effectively treat illness anxiety. Dr. Mazzei is an anxiety specialist and has helped many people overcome illness anxiety disorder. She uses Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), one of the most effective therapies to address illness anxiety. CBT focuses on changing one’s thoughts, emotions, and behaviors to target positive change. Unhelpful thinking typically involves negative thoughts about the possibility of experiencing a disease, the consequences of experiencing sickness, an inability to cope, and lack of support.
CBT encompasses techniques designed specifically for health anxiety, including in vivo and imaginal exposure. In vivo exposure refers to directly facing a situation once you’ve mastered certain skills, such as relaxation training and thought changing. The goal is that you become calmer and relaxed once you are continually exposed to the event, such as a pain sensation, that triggered the fear.
Imaginal exposure allows you to use your imagination to help you work through the illness anxiety triggered by driving fear. Along with Dr. Mazzei, a CBT specialist, you will create a hierarchy of situations from the least to the most anxiety provoking. Typically, imaginal exposure is used first followed by in vivo exposure. Dr. Mazzei and you will work together to engage you in different situations, keeping you calm and in control.
Many people struggle with insomnia due to chronic worry from illness anxiety. Dr. Mazzei uses CBT-I to improve your sleep quality.
Biofeedback and EMDR Therapies
As part of CBT treatment, you will learn relaxation techniques to help keep you calm while you are driving. Heart rate variability training (HRV) using biofeedback is an effective way to train your body’s automatic nervous system. You will learn how to master voluntary control over your breathing, respiration, and heart rate.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is another therapy that resolves any traumatic memories that may be at the root cause of your health anxiety. Often illness anxiety is associated with historical events associated with fear of a medical illness. EMDR therapy facilitates the reprocessing of associated memories so that they aren’t impacting your current functioning. Some people with health anxiety engage in care seeking relationships as a result of broken relationships from earlier life. EMDR therapy can help to repair insecure attachments and foster healthier relationships.
With these combined therapies, Dr. Mazzei can help free yourself from the past and gain the skills you need to lead a fulfilling life.
Hypnosis for Health Anxiety
Hypnosis involves entering a trance-like state to induce positive emotional and behavioral change. Hypnotherapy has been successfully utilized to reduce health anxiety. Guided by Dr. Mazzei, a certified hypnotherapist, you will enter a frame of mind in which you are given suggestions. These suggestions are tailored based on your specific needs, such as eliminating health anxiety. You will likely feel especially relaxed when doing hypnosis. In this state, your mind is typically more open to change.
Illness Anxiety and Somatic Symptom Disorder Treatment
Dr. Mazzei has helped many people overcome both illness anxiety and somatic symptom disorder. She integrates proven psychological therapies into treatment while focusing on giving you emotional support. She utilizes CBT, hypnosis, biofeedback, and EMDR therapy to provide the most effective therapy for you. If you are looking to live with confidence again, Dr. Mazzei is here for you.
How Dr. Mazzei Can Help
If you are suffering from health anxiety, or if you would like to talk to someone more about how Dr. Mazzei can help you, follow these simple steps:
- Text today at (480) 448-6755or email us for a free consultation
- Or, you can book directly online with Dr. Mazzei
- Begin your journey towards a fulfilling and healthier life
Dr. Mazzei offers both in-person health anxiety treatment in Chandler, AZ, and online therapy for residents of Arizona, Illinois, and Tennessee and from PSYPACT states.