I Have Health Anxiety—Here’s How It Affects Me

Health anxiety is a serious thing and approximately 5% of people in the world experience it, although it’s believed that the number could be much higher. I’m one of them. Here’s how it affects me and my life.

  1. It prevents me from being a great friend. When friends confide in me about the weird or alarming medical symptoms they’re experiencing, I start to feel anxious or worried about getting them myself. While I don’t share this with my friends, it does make me feel like I’m not listening to them because part of me is thinking about myself and feeling anxious.
  2. Normal body functions freak me out. I’m sometimes super aware of my breathing or heart rate, which can make me feel anxious. Many people don’t even think of these things, but for me, they can be stressful. I might worry, “Is my breathing normal? Is my heart beating too slow or fast?” This brings me to the next point.
  3. I avoid certain activities. You won’t catch me in the gym anytime soon because I hate the feeling of being out of breath or having to deal with a racing heart. This means I often feel like a loser when I tell my partner or friends that I don’t want to go hiking or to a dance class. I can’t be honest and tell them I associate those normal effects of boosting my blood circulation with a panic attack, but that’s what happens to me.
  4. It can get in the way of normal life. As can be seen from the above, sometimes anxiety surrounding my health can make me feel like I’m not able to do everything I want to do, but that’s only on some days. On other days, I don’t feel health anxiety and those days are blessings because I get to live without all that fear.
  5. I feel like I’m going to get sick or die. Having health anxiety means that I often worry about getting sick. Add those worries onto generalized anxiety and you have the perfect storm for a full-blown panic attack that makes you feel like you’re going to kick the bucket because you’re freaking out, your heart’s racing, and you can’t breathe.
  6. I take normal precautions to another level. If there’s a virus doing the rounds, I check my symptoms regularly and worry that I’m going to fall sick. Those thoughts can accumulate and snowball, causing me to feel overwhelmed by them. In addition, I will take normal precautions to stay virus-free to another level, such as checking my temperature every few hours and washing my hands until my skin is raw.
  7. I can be difficult to deal with. Sometimes I’m hard to handle. If I’m really worried about symptoms I’m experiencing or I’m googling my symptoms which is making me certain I’m going to die, it’s not always easy for loved ones to be patient. I understand that, but it does make me feel like I’m selfish for expressing my fears or that I’m worrying too much.
  8. I bottle things up. To avoid pressuring people with my health anxieties, I sometimes tend to keep my fears to myself. While that can make it easier for me to avoid the guilt of dominating conversations with loved ones, it can make those fears feel so much worse because I don’t give them an outlet. And, it’s exhausting to try to talk myself out of them all the time.
  9. I tune out the world. When I’m struck down by anxiety, it’s really hard to focus on the people and world around me. I find myself consumed by my worries and thoughts, which has the effect of making me feel like I’m missing out on what’s going on outside of my head.
  10. I feel ignored. Expressing health anxieties in the past has made some people in my life write me off. They just wouldn’t acknowledge that there could be truth to my fears. For example, that I could actually be sick and it wasn’t all in my head. Case in point: a few years ago I was given antibiotics for bronchitis and I experienced negative side-effects from the meds, but some loved ones didn’t believe me. My ex at the time said, “She’s just nuts” It was so frustrating! It sucks to be ignored and not believed. Most of all, it sucks to feel so lonely.


Giulia Simolo is a writer from Johannesburg, South Africa with a degree in English Language and Literature. She has been working as a journalist for more than a decade, writing for sites including AskMen, Native Interiors, and Live Eco. You can find out more about her on Facebook and LinkedIn, or follow her on Twitter @GiuliaSimolo.