Is Your Health Phobia Just a Way to Cope With Reality?

Dear Hypochondriac,

Admit it. You’re a symptom junkie. You scrutinize every pulse, twinge, ache or pain that you deem strange.

Unfortunately, you believe that your anxiety symptoms are more than what they seem.

You believe that every doctor, medical exam, article, and loving family member is wrong about your health.

You believe that your symptoms are a sign of serious disease.

Here’s the thing though, anxiety symptoms are not all in your head. The mind has a limited capacity to endure stress and at some point passes on that stress to the body.

The idea that anxiety symptoms are a sign of impending death, well maybe that is all in your head.

But why you? After all, not everyone is walking around thinking they have multiple sclerosis, right?

There are a lot of theories as to why some people are affected by the belief that they have a serious disease when they don’t.

Perhaps you were exposed to death or illness when you were young which planted a fear of something similar happening to you.

Another theory is that maybe your health phobia acts as a psychological defense mechanism, which is just a fancy way of saying that people sometimes distract themselves (i.e., with disease) in order to avoid unpleasant thoughts or feelings.

But that’s not all. Some people, like me, are neurotic. This is an outdated word that was used to describe people who are born with a negative emotional baseline.

I plan to devote an entire podcast next week to this miserable state of being, but for now let’s just say that if you’re neurotic you are prone to anxiety, depression, irritability, phobias, fantasizing and negativity.

This of course means that you have a lower threshold for stress which often ignites your nervous system in all the wrong ways.

And this produces the symptoms that cause you to think that you’re suffering from a catastrophic illness.

I decided to talk about health phobias not just because they’re common, but because I don’t want people to think that their experience is random.

There are specific reasons why people develop a fear of death and disease and the more you know about how this happens the less afraid you will be of your symptoms.

So in this week’s episode of The Anxiety Guru Show I explore health phobias and where they come from.




  1. DyeLongJustice says

    Hey Paul,

    I’ve gotten over my fear of my symptoms, or at least dwelling on them after they are gone. However, I’ve noticed that I’ve become hyperaware of every feeling I get, etc. Is that also a normal response to anxiety? And if so, how do you let go of worrying about your thoughts and feelings? Thanks!

  2. Sue says

    This is me! I want to stop worrying every little thing is wrong with me! Help please!

  3. A Malczewski says

    Thank you Paul for discussing this topic. I swear that what I just read in your email, sounds like you pulled it straight out of my head. Sometimes I feel like I am crazy or well on my way there, by obsessing about my health. So I am very relieved to know that I’m not alone in this. Thank you so much for the work that you do in regards to anxiety. Each email I get seems to be related to what I am experiencing at the time they arrive in my inbox. I cannot thank you enough!! :) God bless you!!

  4. Kathy says

    Wow, this is so tricky and I think you handled the issues so well. In my experience, there was a time when I was sick with cancer and not diagnosed for a long time and then nearly died. Now I have anxiety that I will go to a doctor and they will say I am sick which has given me palpitations. This has started to move to fears that an anxiety attack will harm me or do I have something else wrong. Even while writing this I get palpitations. However, I did go to a cardiologist and am currently wearing a monitor (want to see an anxiety attack when that thing goes off?? whew…not easy). But I agree, they will probably find it is just anxiety and I need to relax but I probably am dealing with a bigger issue…nearly dying before? My sister is sick? My son really needs me? I am glad I found your podcast!

  5. Cindy says

    Thank you, Paul for keeping up with all of this and leaving your podcasts all over this site. Maybe some don’t realize it, but it is extremely helpful to go back and re-listen every now and again. (Just like a cherished movie, you missed something the first few plays. Then out of the blue it grabs you and a light bulb goes off.) I have not listened to even one of your programs where I had to say, “Oh, well that doesn’t interest me at all. ” They all contain real gems of wisdom. (And I should be a pro at this. Forty-six years and counting of suffering.) You and Dr. Weekes are in my prayers of gratefulness.

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