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Agony Aunt Week 1: Managing health anxiety


Question

I have developed quite limiting health anxiety- it's been quite disruptive in my life. Anyone else facing this and how to manage it?


I am sorry to hear you are struggling with health anxiety. Firstly, please be patient and kind to yourself; health anxiety is challenging at any time, never mind at medical school. It is also normal to be concerned about your health. Unfortunately, our brains are also very good at making us think we have symptoms we don’t actually have, and even manifest new symptoms as a result of our anxieties. The more you focus on the worry, the more your anxiety will find evidence to support it. It’s a vicious cycle.

My advice would be to always challenge your anxiety. When you notice you are feeling anxious, try to identify and reframe your thoughts. Thoughts are not facts. However, if we begin to ruminate, our thoughts feel more real. Each time you give in to anxiety, for example, if you start googling symptoms, the harder it will be next time - by facing it, it will become easier to manage. Remember, that anxiety is an uncomfortable feeling, but it is not harmful and if you remember that it will not last forever, it will subside eventually. It may be helpful to also talk to friends and family about your worries or maybe write them down.

In terms of the support available, UCL has a student psychological and counseling service. They will be able to provide therapy sessions free of charge if you would find this helpful. I would advise that you to talk to your personal tutor if you are comfortable or email student support directly.

I hope this advice helps. Be kind to yourself.
M4M xx


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