Worrying about your health? Unexplained symptoms?
Unexplained symptoms can make us feel very worried. We go along to the doctor and he does some tests, and tells us not to worry, there is nothing wrong. How can that possibly be true, you might think, since all these symptoms are still there, and rather more alarming, they seem to change and get worse. I see a number of people most weeks who complain of unexplained symptoms which are making them worried. Anxious to avoid over-exertion which might make the symptoms worse, some people become less active. The physical symptoms are real, so surely there must be an underlying cause?
So what is going on here? If the doctor is right and there is nothing wrong, how does this square up with all these symptoms? Is the doctor hiding something? And if the doctor says, well I can find nothing wrong with you, you might persist and tell them what you have found out about the probable cause of these symptoms. Your doctor might then say Just to be on the safe side, let's do some further tests.
Does this sound like you? Have you experienced something like this?
If you were to list these symptoms, and show the list to someone you don't know, how would they interpret them?
One client was a young happily married woman. She and her husband and her children were all settled in work and financially okay. Previously she had undergone surgery which had been successful. However, as with all operations, there is no 100% guarantee. So the surgeon told her that there was an outside chance that she might need another operation later. The thought that another operation might be necessary filled her with dread. Every morning she scanned through her body to see if there were any symptoms which might signify a recurrence. And she checked regularly throughout the day. And inevitably, she found some physical sensations and symptoms. She monitored them regularly to ensure that they were not getting worse.
If you have been diagnosed by your doctor as physically well, do you now find yourself regularly scanning your body for symptoms, maybe keeping a note of those symptoms and their intensity? Well, you might be suffering from health anxiety. One of the signs of health anxiety is body scanning and checking. Focusing so much on bodily sensations can seem like a way to ensure that you can identify potential problems and get to the doctor before it is too late. However, our bodies are hard at work all day long and there are changes going on all the time. If you work at a computer you might get sore neck muscles. You might have sensations in your gut. Indeed, you will have sensations throughout your body. Observing every little change throughout the day does not give you any useful information. Compare it to the weather. In Britain, the weather changes throughout the course of the day, but overall it is still warmer in summer than in winter. One cold day in summer means nothing about the future course of the season.
Another signal that it might be health anxiety is checking your symptoms on the internet. Spending time on health forums, trying to work out the possible cause of your symptoms maintains anxiety, which triggers uncomfortable physical sensations, because anxious arousal means that Fight or Flight hormones are flooding into your body. The symptoms can include thumping heart, chest pain, dry mouth, tingling, numbness, head like a duvet, a feeling of being spaced out, maybe even feeling a bit unreal, a sort of out of body experience. So if you are feeling any of these sensations, it is worth considering anxiety as a cause.
Anxiety of all kinds is highly treatable with cognitive behavioural therapy and hypnosis. And my client who had surgery? Well, she is doing really well. From fearing that she was going to die, she is now thoroughly enjoying her life, taking holidays, supporting her children, doing a job and running her home. Back to normal, feeling confident and strong. And knowing that she has learned life skills to protect her in the future.
Have you had experience of these kinds of sensations? Share your experience with a comment.