Health Anxiety Fears And Being Too Far From Home

May 9, 2019

“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.

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7 comments on “Health Anxiety Fears And Being Too Far From Home

  1. Karen May 10, 2019

    I have had anxiety since my teens. They put me on Klonopin for it for years. When I could no longer get Klonopin I could not get it in check. I became agoraphobic and did not leave my house for about 8 years. My husband left me & our daughter moved out a year later. I met a nice guy and we worked on driving and going places together. I got to where I could leave my home and go 20 miles or so. We ended up homeless for 18 months living in a camper in the woods. There were meth heads, people shooting each other, wilf animals you name it. I got a shotgun to protect myself. They arrested my husband for “constructive” possession for being by it. They sent him to prison for 400 days. They would not allow him his braces he needs to walk or write. They denied his 23 yr old friend healthcare and he died. At home I had no food, no $, was completely isolated. I saw 5 people or less in 400 days. I could not drive as law required insurance which I cannot afford. My husband came home. Things took work but I got to where I could travel 10 or 15 miles. Then our landlord started stealing our mail and being a peeping Tom looking in our windows at 2am jerking off. My husband told him to stop. He called the cops and said my husband assaulted him. We were given 30 days notice to vacate and they issued a warrant for my husband’s arrest which is normally a 90 day offense but do to third strike law is 15years to life. We moved in -18. I worry 24/7 about him being sent to prison. He does too. He started drinking whiskey and smoking pot all night and sleeping all day. When he runs out he is violent. I have not left our house in 30 days but my daughter wants me to come to the dentist with her my fillings. I am terrified to leave because my brain tells me 100x a minute to run into traffic or jump off a hospital roof. I don’t want to die but it tells me to kill myself. At home it doesn’t. I told my parents a month ago. They have not come to see me once or taken me to the hospital. My husband will call me crazy or psycho when I tell him. I have ran into traffic twice and been injured it feels that powerful.

  2. Debbie Cockman Jun 5, 2019

    This is my second comment Dennis. See, what you wrote. In this…. I’m experiencing and I’m torn too! I just took garbage down driveway and I got so short of breath and sweating. I was just walking an hour practically daily 2 weeks ago. Now, I’m dying…. it so feels like it. The way I’m living right now…. I will die. Did not sleep one wink last night….. now heart sensations….. keep checking my pulse. It’s like I’m helping the inevitable along. I feel completely crazy. I think I’m a lost cause. Everyone is so tired of me. I want to be well. I just don’t think I can this time. I’m at bottom of pit fricking again.

    • Best to reframe the perception, to getting in shape and strengthening your heart. You always have an option of what to believe in those moments, so condition yourself to believe what’s good for you.

  3. Steven Crowe Jun 30, 2020

    Yes I agree to all of this I formation. I too would stay in my zone. I could push myself to the edge and beyond but then have to run back. With exposure and imagery I could separate my fear from excitement over a trip. Then rationalize the fear. The excitement was the good response I wanted not the negative fear.

  4. Maria Jun 30, 2020

    Dennis- this summary really spoke to me. I love travelling, seeing new places, meeting new people but my health anxiety and generalised anxiety has meant I’ve had some really tough times being away from the “safety” of home over the years . It has also led to me turning down some great opportunities due to my fearful perceptions of “what if”? I love the fact that you can do exposure therapy through imagination and visualisation. My ultimate goal is to get on a plane/train/boat by myself to go abroad somewhere (really out of my comfort zone). The fact that I’m even entertaining the idea in a positive way is progress; I have been using your YouTube reframing videos to imagine how I would like future events to go. I’m working on it and I know I’ll get there eventually, little by little. I’ve already seen many improvements in my day to day life. Thank you for all your insights and encouragement. It really helps to know that someone else has been there and come out the other side 🙂