Common Symptoms of Illness Anxiety Disorder

Most everyone experiences bouts of anxiety at some point in life. To a certain degree, anxiety acts as a motivation to action and can be a positive force in a person’s life. Illness anxiety disorder develops in cases where feelings of anxiety take over a person’s daily life experience.

Illness anxiety disorder can take different forms depending on the source of the emotions involved. According to the U. S. Department of Health & Human Services, five main types of anxiety disorder exist:

  1. Panic disorder
  2. Social phobia
  3. Generalized anxiety
  4. Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  5. Post-traumatic stress disorder

While each type carries its own signature symptoms and behaviors, illness anxiety disorders in general share certain common symptoms, some of which may be warning signs of one of the above disorders.

If you suspect you or someone you know may be showing signs of illness anxiety disorder, here are a few common symptoms to watch out for –

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Symptoms of Illness Anxiety Disorder

Persistent Worrying

anxiety disorders

People with illness anxiety disorder often visit the doctor for illnesses they believe they have although they do not.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, people who experience ongoing or recurring anxiety for six months or longer have developed a full-blown disorder. Persistent worrying over significant or even insignificant concerns may be indicative of generalized anxiety or obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Worrying over specific events or situations involving social interactions may point more towards a form of social phobia. Ultimately, once a symptom starts to limit a person’s ability to manage daily life affairs, a disorder has taken shape.

Physical Symptoms

Anxiety triggers certain chemical responses in the brain that, in turn alter neurotransmitter levels. Neurotransmitter chemical levels directly impact the central nervous system’s ability to regulate bodily processes.

Over time, symptoms of illness anxiety disorder start to create chemical imbalances in the brain that inevitably impair central nervous system functions. Physical symptoms of anxiety result once chemical imbalances reach a certain point.

Physical symptoms may include:

  • Feeling flushed or overheated
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Labored breathing
  • Hand tremors
  • Eye twitches
  • Excess sweating

Behavior-Based Symptoms

Anxiety affects a person’s mood states and overall ability to function effectively in daily life. After a certain point, the distress and discomfort brought on by anxiety starts to take shape within a person’s behaviors and cognitive functions.

Behavior-based symptoms of anxiety disorder include:

  • Confusion
  • Restlessness
  • Short-attention span
  • Feeling on edge
  • Irritability

Inability to Cope with Life Situations

Someone living with illness anxiety disorder tends to develop certain coping responses to help relieve the discomfort associated with the condition. In effect, these coping responses act as avoidance schemes, preventing a person from dealing with life situations in healthy ways.

Coping responses may take the form of:

  • Isolating from others
  • Drug and/or alcohol abuse
  • Not speaking up or asserting oneself
  • Avoiding places or things that trigger anxiety feelings

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Considerations

When left untreated, illness anxiety disorder can actually weaken a person’s immune system functions and overall sense of well-being. Once health problems start to develop, anxiety has become the “norm” in a person’s life.

Possible health problems may include:

  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Aches and pains
  • Headaches
  • Rashes
  • Gastrointestinal problems

Once brain chemical imbalances develop, conditions only get worse when left untreated. The sooner a person gets needed treatment help the easier it is to recover from illness anxiety disorder.

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