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Using CBT To Treat Health Anxiety: 5 Tips to Overcome Illness Related Anxiety


There are many forms of anxiety disorders that people live with, one being Health Anxiety – also known as illness related anxiety. Formerly this kind of health anxiety was known as hypochondria, and often these terms are interchangeably used too. When someone is suffering from health anxiety, they can experience it in several ways. Thankfully, using CBT to treat health anxiety can be very effective. 

It manifests itself through the person imagining they have physical symptoms of illness. Or a person may misinterpret normal or minor body sensations as a sign that they have something worse. In either case, health anxiety is a condition that negatively impacts a person’s mental health and well-being.

It is a form of anxiety and is a treatable condition. One way to treat it is through Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Here are five tips on how using CBT to treat health anxiety can help you to overcome this debilitating manifestation of anxiety.

Using CBT To Treat Health Anxiety: Tip 1 – Question What You’re Obsessing Over

For most people, once we begin to fixate on something, we don’t. For example, when someone suffers from health anxiety, they can become obsessed over how their body feels. The more you pay attention to the symptoms, the greater your awareness becomes, and the feelings intensify.

CBT helps people take a step back from their obsessive thoughts and challenges them. How a person views their symptoms can determine how anxious they are. CBT challenges you to view your problems with an alternate possibility. What if your symptoms are caused by your excessive worrying instead of something being wrong?

Using CBT To Treat Health Anxiety: Tip 2 – Face The Anxiety You’re Feeling Head-On

Facing your anxiety may seem counter intuitive. After all, you want to avoid feeling anxious about your health, right? But CBT helps you face your anxiety over your health in a safe place. Working with a therapist trained in CBT will give you the guidance you need to deconstruct why you feel the way you do. You’ll get the tools needed to face the anxiety you’re feeling and challenge these intrusive thoughts.

Using CBT To Treat Health Anxiety: Tip 3 – Understand What Causes These Thoughts

CBT is a therapy method that gets to the root of the problem by uncovering what’s behind these thoughts. It can help you learn how the thoughts behind a medical condition affect how you feel, which dictates how you behave.

Most people don’t understand there is a strong correlation between anxiety and the sensations in our bodies. If we feel tingling in our legs and you Google your symptoms, the causes may point to serious conditions such as MS. 

As we fear the possibility of having MS, the tingling sensation may worsen. Why? Everything is connected in our bodies and can affect your nervous system. As the anxiety worsens, our nervous system becomes out of sync with the rest of us. CBT helps you understand how your nervous system, the symptoms you feel, and your anxiety are all connected.

Using CBT To Treat Health Anxiety: Tip 4 – Recognize How Your Thoughts Influence Your Views

People who experience health anxiety often view their symptoms as dangerous, which results in jumping to the worst possible conclusion or misjudging the likelihood of a certain disease.

Likewise, we always look for the reasons behind something. CBT helps people cope with their health anxiety by pointing out how intrusive thoughts affect how your body feels. It provides you with the “why” you are seeking without blaming it on a specific condition.

Using CBT To Treat Health Anxiety: Tip 5 – Increase Your Tolerance of Uncertainty

Anxiety comes from the fear of the unknown. This uncertainty can cause people to constantly check their symptoms. With CBT, you can modify your behavior slowly by becoming comfortable with the uncertainty. Instead of constantly seeking reassurance from others, try not to seek out their opinions.

Instead of checking yourself every day, try every other day, and then every three days, and so on. Then, note how you feel on the days you do both of these things.

No matter how long health anxiety has affected your life, you can overcome it. Working with a CBT counselor can help you recognize your brain’s influence on your behavior and challenge your thoughts. Over the years, I’ve seen CBT help many individuals learn brain science based tools to not only manage health anxiety, but also to change the relationship one has with their body. If you’re ready to begin your journey of not letting illness related anxiety control your life anymore, please feel free to reach out to me. Click to read more about how this anxiety treatment works.


I am a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in Hawaii and an Accredited CBT Therapist in the UK with over 15 years of experience. I specialize in anxiety treatments and have received advanced specialist training in Cognitive Behavior Therapy and Compassion Focused Therapy. Please feel free to contact me at my Honolulu or London clinic to set up an Online CBT Test Drive.

CBT Test Drive

The right approach, tools and fit is a game changer. For this reason, I offer an Initial Test Drive session to see if working together could be a great fit for you. Each Test Drive lasts between 45-60 minutes and takes place within my Video Consulting Room. Based on the latest evidence, science, and my experience, I will aim to make concrete suggestions as to what I think can be most helpful for you.