Health anxiety is characterised by an extreme preoccupation about serious illness (e.g. cancer, HIV, heart disease) in the absence of any conclusive medical diagnosis. One of the hallmarks of the disorder is repeated reassurance from others (e.g. doctors, close friends or family members) that in the long term fails to reduce the anxiety. Other symptoms include:
- Frequent focussing on and monitoring of minor bodily changes and/or pains
- Excessive information-seeking about the feared illness, for example by surfing the internet
- Repeated visits to the GP and/or health care specialists for tests and scans
- Avoidance of anything relating to the feared illness (e.g. TV documentaries, newspaper articles)
In terms of treatment, there are few medications available and the main treatment recommended by NICE is CBT.