Sadly, many people are diagnosed with serious illness or illnesses during their lifetimes. Feelings of shock, fear, denial and grief are only some of the emotions a person or their family and loved ones have to manage and cope with – emotions which can be too challenging and horrendous to carry by one’s self.

Indeed some individuals experience health anxiety – in other words when one may have a long-term excessive concern about their own health.  Perhaps you may be convinced that a serious illness is impending and maybe you have become fixated on potential symptoms.  Or do you misjudge physical symptoms (eg. from anxiety – nausea, sweating, heart palpitations etc.) as signs of an impending illness.

Talking to your GP is necessary for medical advice and a possible diagnosis.  However worrying excessively our health can lead to significant distress, and consequently, one can feel bound to lessen this distress by chatting to loved ones, or for example, health care workers, or even a consult with Dr. Google!  Although it can seem tempting to attain reassurance from such sources, for people with health anxiety, reassurance seeking can be persistent and not offer actual relief from symptoms.

Counselling and therapy can help to challenge the worries posed by long-term illness and it can be supportive in finding ways to making positive changes that can improve the quality of life or enable a person to live with an illness, diagnosis or prognosis.  It can also help a person hold on to some degree of control and help to live their life as best as they can.

Owen has spent the last 10 years practicing as a medical social worker in an acute general teaching hospital as well as in a hospice, inpatient psychiatry and community mental health settings.  He has worked with patients and their loved ones trying to come to terms with a diagnosis or prognosis, across areas such as cardiology, respiratory, oncology, and infectious diseases such as STIs and HIV – as well as patients and family members coming to terms with various mental health conditions.  Additionally he has also worked with patients (and their loved-ones) awaiting surgery (or post-surgery) in areas such as cardiac, orthopaedics, gynaecological and general surgeries.

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