Health anxiety is a relatively common form of anxiety that affects approximately five percent of the population. It can stem from previous negative experiences with healthcare, irrational fears of different aspects of medical treatments, or intense concerns about developing a serious illness. People with health anxiety either visit the doctor frequently to seek help regarding symptoms they perceive to be alarming or avoid going to the doctor entirely to stay away from potential bad news or anxiety triggers. As a healthcare professional, you need to recognize and, where possible, alleviate the stress caused by health anxiety so patients can receive the treatment they need.
Prepare Your Time
Patients who present health anxiety symptoms such as visible nervousness or detailing every possible symptom regardless of severity can take longer to talk to. It can be difficult for a healthcare professional to get to the root of the problem and assess the patient for likely illnesses when their concerns are so numerous. If you know a particular patient is someone who needs more time to adjust to the medical setting or requires additional reassurance, consider booking them for a double appointment. It is also important to maintain boundaries with your time and, if necessary, remind the patient that you have other people to treat.
Provide Comfort and Reassurance
A pleasant and compassionate manner can go a long way to reassuring a patient with health anxiety, especially if one of their main fears is interacting with medical professionals. Listen to what your patient has to say and understand that some of their beliefs may come from a place of fear rather than rationality. Avoid judgement, even if you disagree with what is being said. You can also provide relevant information when it serves to reassure the patient, such as correcting them about a medical assumption they had. Try not to linger for too long on specific worries.
Offer Sources of Information
It’s understandable that when a patient feels as if they are being kept in the dark about various aspects of healthcare, they suffer more anxiety. When patients feel more informed about not only their own conditions but also the way medicine, chemicals and the body all work together, it can be effective at reassuring them and easing their worries. For example, Enhanced Lifting provides information about particular kinds of supplements and their interactions within the body. Patients who have a firmer grasp of how different medical areas work can feel more in control and less anxious, even if it isn’t specific to their conditions.
Suggest Psychiatric Help
Someone with health anxiety can find it difficult to function in everyday life as their concerns about illness can get in the way. If your patient suffers from regular feelings of stress, consider referring them to a psychiatric specialist who can suggest appropriate treatments and medication. Even if there is no physical illness to be concerned about, health anxiety can be debilitating and should be addressed.
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