Researchers warn that worrying about your health can be a self-fulfilling prophecy, raising the risk of heart disease and death. Neurotic and anxiety traits have also been linked to a higher risk for Alzheimer’s disease. Getting a negative result from your doctor is usually a relief for most people, but an estimated 5 to 10% of people still worry about their health even though there aren’t any significant symptoms.
Research has shown that health anxiety is linked to a higher risk of heart disease that is a significantly higher risk than those who don’t worry about the absence of serious symptoms. About 7,050 people completed a questionnaire to assess their overall health, which included their thoughts and concerns about their health. The top 10% of worriers were more likely to have health anxiety. After twenty years it was compared to actual health outcomes and found their health anxiety had doubled the rate of heart disease compared to those without this anxiety. Health anxiety in and of itself may cause heart disease.
Hypochondria is when a person is convinced they have a serious, undiagnosed disease. Even for these people they may interpret a sore throat as throat cancer. To ascertain if you might be someone who has health anxiety, here are three questions that may suggest you qualify.
- Have certain symptoms caused you a great deal of worry?
- Do you worry about your health in general?
- Do you feel your problem is more serious than your doctors have found?
Getting reassurance from a medical professional will not do you any good if you have health anxiety, and you may need to seek help from a cognitive behavioral therapist to help you reinterpret your thoughts. Keeping a journal will also help you link your physical symptoms and mental worries to your day-to-day activities.
Pessimism does take a toll on your health. A study of 2,200 people in Finland for 11 years shows just how much pessimism can raise your risk of ill health. Those pessimistic individuals had a 220% higher risk of dying over the course of the study compared to the optimistic ones, and had 73% higher risk of lethal heart disease. Anxiety has been linked to thickening of your arteries, stress hormones have been linked to heart disease and pessimism has been linked to chronic inflammation.
Being neurotic may double your risk of Alzheimer’s. A 38-year-long study of women who scored highest on a test of neuroticism was found to be more likely to develop Alzheimer’s than those with the lowest scores.
By addressing anxiety, pessimism and neurotic tendencies you are more able to achieve optimal health. Address your anxiety, fear, pessimism or other neurotic tendencies for peace of mind and ultimate health. Some strategies to keep your mind off worrying or fretting excessively include cognitive behavioral therapy, mindfulness training, breathing exercises and emotional freedom techniques (EFT).
-Dr Fredda Branyon
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