Cognitive Behavioural Therapy - CBT Treatment for Health Anxiety - Sevenoaks, London and Online Via Video Link

If you are continuously preoccupied by worries about your health, body sensations or the possibility of contracting a  serious illness or life changing medical condition, you could be experiencing Health Anxiety or what is now referred to as Illness Anxiety Disorder. This obsessional focus on health related problems can have a profound effect on the quality of life and place severe limitations on your personal and professional responsibilities. Health Anxiety can be effectively treated using Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.

We provide specialist CBT treatment for Health Anxiety from our main clinics in London and Sevenoaks. We also have over 180 BABCP accredited Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapists available across the UK or online via video link. To book an appointment you can complete the simple contact form on the right side of the page or search for a therapist by postcode to find a member of our CBT team near you. 

What is Health Anxiety?

Health anxiety involves continuous worry about contracting or having a serious illness or disease. Common health anxiety targets include cancer, brain tumors, HIV, heart problems, strokes and neurological diseases. Health anxiety is often based on a misinterpretation of innate bodily sensations or the physiological symptoms of anxiety. This is accompanied by continuous checking behaviours, constant bodily scanning and a tendency to assign serious or life threatening outcomes to innate physical sensations. Health anxiety is a significant problem. It affects up to 5% of the population and can continue or reoccur for periods in excess of five years if left untreated. 

Key factors include:

  • The health anxiety persists despite appropriate medical assessment and reassurance.
  • The health worry is not delusional and is not limited to concerns about bodily appearance.
  • The preoccupation with health causes significant distress or impairment in social and occupational functioning.
  • The problem is usually experienced for at least six months.

 There are a number of common factors which may trigger health anxiety:

  • Having a serious childhood illness.
  • Experiencing a significant illness or health scare in adult life.
  • Having a close family member or friend with a serious illness.
  • The death of a close relative or friend.
  • Being physically affected by another anxiety disorder.
  • Other close family and friends with health anxiety. 

Health anxiety is a continuous source of worry and frustration for the individual. In addition to the genuine concerns about underlying health problems, Sufferers often feel undermined and that they are being judged as behaving in a weak or bogus manner. Continuous health worry leads to checking, reassurance seeking and medical appointments or tests. The problem is that whilst checking or reassurance helps to resolve the immediate health worry, it reinforces the idea that health worry can only be resolved by obtaining a definitive result.  This creates a vicious cycle of continuous worry, checking and hypervigilance to bodily sensations or feelings of illness. Health anxiety can gradually shift the focus of daily life to a continuous cycle of worrying about illness and seeking medical reassurance. 

Common beliefs for health anxiety include:

  • Bodily changes are always a sign that something is wrong.
  • If I don't worry about my health, then something will go wrong.
  • Detailed tests are the only way to really rule out an illness.
  • Being "healthy" means that you do not experience any physical symptoms or sensations.
  • If the doctor sends me for any tests, this means that there is something wrong.Abrar 

How Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is used to Treat Health Anxiety

CBT has been shown to be highly effective in the treatment of health anxiety, consistently outperforming psychotropic medication and other forms of therapy. CBT provides an approach for exploring and testing alternative beliefs about the nature of the health worry, as well as interrupting the addictive cycle of checking behaviours that maintain the problem.  Clients are encouraged to examine and experiment with different situations to determine whether the problem is based on a medical illness or the physiological effects of increased sensitivity and anxiety. This involves learning techniques to alter negative thinking patterns, shifting focus of attention, changing unhelpful behaviours and normalising exposure to health anxiety triggers.

The research has also shown that a special form of CBT known as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy or ACT, together with EMDR can be helpful in the treatment of health anxiety.  As our therapists are trained across a number of evidence based psychological disciplines, we normally combine these approaches with mainstream CBT to get the very best results for our clients.  If you want to talk to a Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist about Health Anxiety, you can complete the simple contact form and we will organise a free initial telephone consultation.  You can also take the free Health Anxiety assessment by clicking on the following link:


Take the Free Health Anxiety Inventory (HAI-18)

The Health Anxiety Thought Record can also be used as a tool for identifying, interrupting and altering the addictive cycle of worry and reassurance seeking that maintains problems with health anxiety.  This can provide a useful starting point for understanding the patterns of negative thinking and avoidance that keep health anxiety going.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for health anxiety brings the same rigor, structure and focus to the problem that it provides for many other psychological, emotional and behavioural problems.  

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