“The Farther I Got From My Comfort Zone, The More My Health Anxiety Fears Grew.”
Health anxiety is a misinterpretation of specific sensations in the body, to the point of thinking a person has or will develop a physical illness. During my health anxiety days I was torn between not wanting to live anymore, and loving life so much that I didn’t want to lose what I had. This daily gripping of life kept me needing more and more certainty. That certainty would be needed in the form of the same people, places, and situations that were the most common at the time.
The moment uncertainty showed up either in my mind or in the physical world, I looked for ways to avoid it
With health anxiety fears a few steps outside this well oiled comfort zone is ok. But the thought of getting on a plane to see a new country, or driving long distances scared the heck out of me, and here’s why:
- I felt I was getting too far away from help such as doctors, emergency rooms, friends, family etc. This, to my nervous system meant the same thing as death itself
- I feared the possibility of my symptoms of anxiety increasing in strength
- I feared making a fool out of myself during what others may have deemed a neutral situation
The list goes on, as you with the health anxiety fears know all too well. Prior to starting my healing journey from health anxiety my only option was to will myself through the challenges. From a young age onwards I was always told to fight through what was ‘bad,’ or to avoid difficult situations. Sounds like the fight or flight response to me, and as long as this was activated my parasympathetic system (rest and digest) had no chance of showing up.
I realized that after some time it wasn’t so much the distance away from my comfort zone, as much as the perception I had over what may occur
I started to think to myself that if I could imagine the worst case scenario and be stuck with these health anxiety fears, what if I could do the opposite instead. Putting all my past memories behind me I engaged in daily exercises around exposure visualization which made the physical exposure much easier (as explained in this YouTube video). Since a persons mind and body doesn’t know the difference between something that’s imagined with great emotion behind it, and something that’s actually happening, we can use this to our advantage.
This kind of imaginative exposure prepares the person for what’s to come. As someone with health anxiety fears begins to get more and more into the imaginative world and ‘warm up’ for an upcoming scenario, they will become more neutral to the situation itself.
“I’ve died a thousands deaths due to any health anxiety fears, and finally became dis-interested in the same limiting ideas.”
To become dis-interested in the fear based ideas leads to a total change in bodily feelings. There is no longer a ‘spider-web effect’ going on, meaning a branching from one catastrophic idea to the next. If a person can tame the thought in its beginning stages they have the power to turn their focus to something else. That something else must be the things that excite the person about the upcoming situation. This becomes a complete game changer.
Simply because the bodily reactions to fear and excitement are identical
When the physical symptoms show up due to the excitement of a future event or current situation, it doesn’t bother a person. In fact there are many times throughout the day where you feel the same symptoms that go unnoticed. These times could be during a workout, a deep conversation with someone, playing video games or any other routines you engage in.
In closing, understand that your health anxiety fears are just that… fears. What your mind believes will be the outcome of a situation where you step too far outside your comfort zone is an interpretation. That false interpretation is simply due to the unfamiliar factor of not having to do it enough. But with repetition through imaginative exposure, and a mental response which sees the situation in a much more neutral manner, the truth will come to you. And that truth is that you are much more than anxiety.