I tend to initially google as a way of reassuring myself, which then ends up just making me more anxious. For example, I've recently been getting some pain in my lower abdomen on one side, so I thought maybe it was an ectopic pregnancy... but I'd had a period the week before, so I thought "well it can't be that because I've had a period, and I'll prove it to myself..." I then googled "ectopic pregnancy period", hoping that the internet would say something like "you'd miss a period if you had an ectopic pregnancy"... but of course the first thing I read was an account of someone with an ectopic pregnancy who hadn't missed a period. Another example is that I've had loads of acid reflux lately and also a fairly constant sharp pain in my stomach... my fear was stomach cancer, so I googled my symptoms hoping to find lots of other less-serious things that it could be, but stomach cancer was one of the first things my search brought up, and so I worried more.
I recently spoke to a retired doctor about my health anxiety, and she said, "When you hear hoofbeats, don't immediately think of zebras." I think that's definitely true - as sufferers of health anxiety we immediately jump to the worst conclusion when we get a symptom (or even just hear about a certain illness) - but most of the time there is a perfectly harmless explanation for what we're experiencing. And it's worth bearing in mind that stress and anxiety can give you symptoms such as heart palpitations, chest pains, headaches, digestive problems, eczema, etc. It's a vicious circle. I tend to think of a disease and get fixated on it, until I start getting the symptoms... I then actually worry that I've somehow GIVEN myself the particular health problem just by worrying about it. In other aspects of life I'm quite a rational person, but all reason has gone out the window recently when it comes to my health. Several years ago I went through a similar phase of health anxiety after reading something about appendicitis and realising that it could happen to anyone at any time... then a few days later I got a sharp pain in the place where my appendix was and went to my doctor, who sent me on to the hospital with suspected appendicitis. I had a scan and blood tests done and they picked nothing up, so they sent me home again. Over the next six months I was obsessed with the idea that I had a grumbling appendix... I kept getting pain there, or thinking I had pain there... in the end I had another scan done, and this time it showed my appendix to be very engorged and surrounded by fluid, suggesting inflammation. I had it taken out and it was confirmed that it was indeed appendicitis. Since then I always worry that I somehow have the power to give myself a serious health problem just by worrying about it... Does anyone else have anything similar?
I find that distraction is one of the best ways of easing health anxiety, but the distraction has to be something you're really interested in, otherwise it won't work. I've gone a bit off-topic now though so will save that for another post!