Episode 17: Health Anxiety and Health OCD

Episode 17

Health Anxiety and Health OCD

In this episode of Purely OCD, your show hosts Lauren and Kelley chat about Health Anxiety and Health OCD. They go over common obsessions and compulsions, and also talk Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) – the therapy of choice for OCD. They also consider matters that arise in this form of OCD and answer questions from those joining in.

Kelley describes health related anxieties as “excessive worry of acquiring or having a serious illness or disease.”  

What is the difference between Health Anxiety and Health OCD?

It’s somewhat arbitrary, but usually…

  • the person with Health OCD is mainly obsessed about the future, “What if I get AIDS?” This person is likely to have obsessions related to other content areas, too.
  • the person with Health Anxiety is, more often, involved with the present. “What if I have AIDS [now]?”

Ultimately the line between the two blurry. Besides, Health Anxiety and Health-related obsessions in OCD are treated in the same way.

Worry thoughts and obsessions with Health Anxiety and Health OCD can include “What if I have…”

  • A degenerative disease?
  • Cancer?  
  • Alzheimer’s? 
  • Schizophrenia? 

But wait – Kelley and Lauren take a brief detour off the rails, with Kelley musing about writing a book entitled, Choose your own adventure: OCD Edition. Obsessive minds are infinitely creative.

Back to the crux of the matter:

With Health Anxiety and Health OCD, compulsions can look like:

  • Doctor hopping: seeing 18 doctors in a day for a “second” opinion. 
  • Calling your doctor over and over again
  • Avoidance: “I don’t want to go to the doctor.”
  • Over attending the symptoms, “Do I feel cancerish today.”
  • Reassurance seeking, “Do you think I’m going to be ok?”
  • Googling other peoples’ symptoms. 

In order to exemplify what this can look like in practice, Lauren shares her story about waking up with night sweats.  Curious about what might be going on, she turned to Google. When she looked it up on Google it said, “you’re in menopause.” If Lauren had this form of Anxiety/OCD, she might go down the rabbit hole trying to make sure that she’s not going through menopause. That said, Lauren didn’t get hooked by that result. Instead she took action based on the likelihood that at 35 she’s unlikely to be going through the change.


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Disclaimer: This information is meant to be general information not unique to any individual. Before following any guidance or advice found on this site or in the Purely OCD Podcast a visitor or listener should always consult with their own licensed healthcare practitioner. The Purely OCD Podcast and Website are not therapy or intended as a replacement for therapy. They are for educational purposes only.

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