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Health Anxiety Disorder

Many children live in constant fear of having serious medical illness even when the medical evidence is to the contrary. They may mistake normal bodily sensations as being a sign of a life threatening disease, or even develop symptoms that are mimicking the illness they fear. It is very common for the child to rely on their siblings, parents and friends to provide them with reassurance that they are fine or undergo unnecessary medical procedures even after their doctor has told them that they are clear of disease. These behaviors do provide short term relief, but do very little in changing their fears about the future. Paradoxically, the child may sometimes avoid contacting a physician for routine medical check-ups because they fear receiving bad news. If untreated these fears can lead to serious disturbances in daily life.

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Treatment of health anxiety begins by educating the child on the relationship between stress, anxiety, and the body. An understanding of how anxiety can disrupt a child's perception of physical sensations can help explain why they are experiencing the symptoms that they are experiencing. The children are then guided through exposures (imaginal, in-vivo, and interoceptive) to assist them in tolerating the uncertainty of their health status and the physical sensations that the child is feeling. The treatment team at The Anxiety Center are experts in treating health anxiety and will work with the child to curb their need for constant reassurance, renew their sense of optimism for the future, and help them enjoy their good health.

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