People who needlessly worry that they have, or will develop, serious illness popularly referred to as ‘the worried well’ may be boosting their risk of developing heart disease, suggests research published in the online journal BMJ Open.
If you’re a hypochondriac, you could be hurting yourself with your anxieties.
According to a study conducted in Norway, persistent uneasiness about a possibility of getting a disease, called health anxiety, proved to be a serious risk factor for developing a heart disorder.
The findings underline the importance of proper diagnosis and treatment of health anxiety.
“There is a saying in the way we treat these people in the clinic: it’s not dangerous, it’s just anxiety, keep on living your life,” says Line Iden Berge, a researcher at the University of Bergen and Sandviken University Hospital in Norway. “But we really don’t now if there are any adverse consequences over time with living with health anxiety.”
This is an observational study, so no firm conclusions can be drawn about cause and effect, added to which the researchers admit that health anxiety often exists alongside other mental health issues, such as general anxiety and depression, making it hard to differentiate.
More research is needed to determine how much of this effect is being driven by health anxiety or by anxiety in general, which has also been linked to heart problems in research.
So make sure to take a deep breath and relax about your health. Worrying won’t do it any good.