Overcoming health anxiety is often made harder than it needs to be, simply because a few simple rules are broken. One of these fundamental rules that should never be broken is investigating your own physical symptoms on Google. This is a road to disaster, and the sooner you get off it, the sooner your health anxiety will lose its grip on you.
Googling your symptoms is done with good intentions: you’re worried about a physical symptom that you have, and want to reassure yourself that it’s nothing serious, so you look it up online and you typically find what you’re looking for – an answer to what your symptom is, and the reassurance that it’s not a sign of a terrible disease or illness.
But the trouble is, as someone with an anxiety disorder, you can’t switch off that easily, and the logical part of your mind is overpowered by all the “what ifs.”
This invariably compels you to continue researching your symptoms online, and you’ll keep this up until it leads you somewhere terrible.
As the compulsion to investigate your symptoms worsens, you’ll discover that you can link even the most harmless symptom to all kinds of unthinkable diseases and illnesses. This creates a vicious circle of panic/research/new symptom/more panic. And if the cycle is not broken, life can become very unpleasant.
So how do you stop this habit of “Googling” your symptoms?
If you’re a habitual Googler, then they key is to wean yourself off it slowly. Going “cold turkey” is never easy, whatever the behaviour you’re trying to stop, so don’t try an all-out stop.
Begin to limit the time you allow yourself to spend online. At first, make this an easy target to achieve. And then slowly, over time, reduce the amount of time you allow yourself to read up on your symptoms. The key is to make each target achievable so you can successfully stick to it, and only when you’re able to stick to it consistently should you reduce your time further.
This may seem like a slow approach, but eventually, by taking these small steps, you’ll completely wean yourself off your need to Google your symptoms.
While you’re going through your “detox,” it might be a good idea to visit a health anxiety forum from time to time. You’ll find like-minded people there, and many of them will be able to reassure you that whatever symptom you have is due to your anxiety, and not a terrible disease.
If you choose to go down this health anxiety forum road then carry out a similar “weaning” process away from the forum once you’ve successfully overcome your need to “Google” your symptoms.
By following the above advice, and by stopping your need to look up your physical symptoms online, you’ll be much closer to finally overcoming health anxiety.