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Health Anxiety

Hi Sam, I'm 13 and I have really bad health anxiety. I always google symptoms of everything even small harmless things like spots. Recently I've been feeling kind of sick and I googled about it and even though I know the real reason why I feel sick my mind keeps telling me it's other more serious things like diseases. I am really freaked out. Please help me out if you can.

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Sam

Hi there

Anxiety can be triggered by feeling scared or being worried about something. Often the thing you are frightened about is something you have little or no control over and you start to feel anxious about what might happen next. It can be difficult to think logically when you feel anxious so it can help to take some slow, deep breaths to feel calmer and speak to someone about what’s worrying you.

When you feel anxious it can be hard to know whether there is something physically wrong or not. Your health is important and if you’re worried about symptoms or changes in your body you should talk to someone who’s medically trained. A diagnosis can only be made by your doctor or a health professional - you can’t diagnose something yourself by looking online. Searching for symptoms online will often mean you’ll get some worrying illnesses or diseases in the search results which don’t apply to you.

Feeling anxious about your health or about being ill is something a lot of people experience. When you notice a sensation like feeling sick or something on your body like a spot you might want to work out why it’s there and whether it’s something serious or not. That can start a pattern of thoughts where your mind goes from thinking everything is okay to worrying that it might not be and wondering what to do. Sometimes that decision process is really quick and you hardly notice it but other times, especially if you feel stressed or anxious, it can keep going backwards and forwards between the different options, which can make you feel even more stressed. Then, you might be in a spiral of anxiety that’s hard to get out of.

When your anxiety is triggered it can sometimes make you stop what you’re doing or thinking about. It can be helpful to stop searching symptoms online, put your phone down and focus your attention on something in your surroundings, like any noises you can hear.

First, focus on the furthest away noise, like traffic or rain outside, and take a few deep breaths. You might need to do this a few times to feel calmer. Sometimes it’s difficult to read instructions when you’re very anxious and there are Childline videos about taking care of yourself that you can also watch to help you feel calmer.

It’s a bit like learning to train your mind to pay attention to something different so that you’re not reacting to thoughts that are making your anxiety worse. Remember: your anxious thoughts are a pattern or habit that your mind has got into and it’s something you can change.

Thank you for your letter. Remember, you can always talk to a counsellor at Childline about any of your worries.

Take care,

Sam

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