How to overcome the fear of illness? 10 tips

There are people who show intense fear of the disease. We need to differentiate this from hypochondria (currently Disease Anxiety Disorder, in DSM-5), however.

Between one case and another, the difference lies in the severity and importance of the symptoms; when these really interfere with a person’s life, it is called a disorder, in this case hypochondria. But, How to overcome the fear of illness?

In this article, we’ve rounded up up to 10 key ideas from researchers Mathews, Gelder, and Johnston that can help either way, although we’ll always recommend seeing a professional to provide psychological support when needed.

    Fear of getting sick and hypochondria

    It is a reality, even if it may seem catastrophic (it is not), that we all get sick and we will all die one day. We can contract many diseases throughout our lives, and yet this possibility should not cripple us or diminish our quality of life.

    The first step in avoiding this is to accept and assume that we can get sick, without it robbing us of sleep. It sounds easy, but it’s not so much, especially for people with hypochondria.

    In hypochondria, which must last at least 6 months to be diagnosed, the main symptom is a worry of suffering or contracting a serious illness. It is no longer so much about ‘fear of getting sick’, in general, as is commonly thought, but about fear of a particular disease (eg cancer), although this may vary over time.

    Another feature of this disorder is that there are no somatic symptoms or, if they are present, they are only mild.. In addition, the person exhibits excessive health-related behaviors, and constantly “examines” their body for “new sensations”, or vice versa, avoiding going to the doctor for fear of being ill.

    How to overcome the fear of illness: 10 key ideas

    As we said, you have to differentiate between having hypochondria (anxiety disorder due to illness) and having a generalized fear of getting sick, which is milder in nature (typical of many people).

    Once this differentiation is made, and noting that in the first case it will be better to seek professional help (although the key ideas we will suggest can also be applied, and as “extra” help), we will look at several key ideas on how to overcome the fear of illness. These come from the contributions of researchers Mathews, Gelder and Johnston (1986) and are as follows.

    1. Control catastrophic thoughts

    Most hypochondriacs manifest catastrophic thoughtsa. These arose as a result of misinterpreting their bodily sensations, which become relevant when we are overwhelmed and when we focus our attention on them.

    If, for example, our back hurts and we start paying too much attention to it, other strange feelings of self-concentration may appear, associated with overload and stress what causes us this discomfort.

    As a result, catastrophic thoughts can arise, so it’s important at this point to try to reduce their appearance, put our bodily sensations into perspective, and normalize them when they’re not really worrying.

      2. Relativize your bodily sensations

      Another idea on how to overcome the fear of illness, related to the previous point, is to simply put your bodily sensations into perspective. As in the previous example, when you experience an abnormal sensation or a slight pain, try not to focus all of your attention on it and relativize how you really feel.

      It is normal that, on a daily basis, we experience various sensations, sometimes uncomfortable or strange, in our body, which should not be the basis of any disease. Unless these are really serious or worrying symptoms, try to think of the sensations you are having as neither harmful nor dangerous for you. Also, may your body be wise and strong!

      3. Deal with obsessive thoughts

      In hypochondria, as well as in people who manifest a fear of getting sick, in addition to the catastrophic thoughts mentioned, obsessive thoughts appear in connection with their bodily sensations, diseases they may have, etc.

      In this sense, another key idea of ​​how to overcome fear of illness is not to give such thoughts a break; that is, root cut and don’t give them the importance they don’t deserve. Otherwise, there is a risk that the feeling of panic will increase.

      4. Focus on the here and now

      Don’t speculate on your body, on your feelings. Try to focus on how you are feeling now, but not paying too much attention to your body. Watch how nothing happens to you, don’t imagine feelings that aren’t really there.

      5. Give yourself time, breathe and stay calm

      Another key idea on how to overcome fear of illness is to achieve, as much as possible, a feeling of calm that is incompatible with fear.

      Fear is a complex feeling that does not go away easily, which is why we should try not to fight it., But neither do we resist. A good idea to get that feeling of calm is to breathe and let that emotion flow.

      6. Take this little test

      Another key idea proposed by Mathews, Gelder and Johnston is to do this little exercise: observe how, by ceasing to have catastrophic and obsessive thoughts, the fear gradually disappears and you feel lighter. When we don’t feed it, fear (as a feeling, in this case unfounded and irrational) goes away.

      7. Learn to deal with fear

      As one can see, several of the ideas that will guide you on how to overcome the fear of the diseaseThey have to do with the feeling of fear. Therefore, our goal is not so much to avoid or resist fear, but to face it by letting it flow.

      We believe that whenever this feeling enters our body, it can be an opportunity to learn how to manage and master it. Hence the importance of remaining optimistic about our problem.

      8. Predict success

      A good idea is to anticipate the feeling of success that will come and which, in part, has already come with the small daily advances.

      9. Plan activities that make you feel good

      To overcome a phobia, or any situation we fear, it is essential to keep hope and a positive mind. for that it is important that in addition to working on our problem, we plan for positive things that we can do once we feel better.

      We can think of the walking we can do while breathing fresh air, rewarding activities that we can do “without fear of being afraid”, and so on.

      10. Take back your life, relax and strengthen yourself

      Another key idea on how to overcome fear of illness is the importance of self-reinforcement. Have you made a little breakthrough with your fear of getting sick? Strengthen yourself, praise yourself, praise yourself. Once you have overcome the first obstacles, try to resume your life little by little., Relaxed but enjoying this little triumph.

      It may be beneficial for you, moreover, to analyze later and calmly, what has helped you the most in this situation, to use it the next time this fear attacks you, in case it happens (hopefully. that no!).

      Bibliographical references:

      • American Psychiatric Association -APA- (2014). DSM-5. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Madrid: Panamericana.
      • Mathews, AM, Gelder, MG by Johnston, DW (1986). Scheduled Practice for Agoraphobia: Patient Manual. Vitoria-Gasteiz: Central Publications Service of the Basque Government.
      • Warwick, HMC (1989). A cognitive-behavioral approach to hypochondria and health anxiety. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 33 (6), 705-711.

      Leave a Comment