What to do about COVID & Health Anxiety

Google Adds An Anxiety Disorder Self-Assessment to Search Results

In the words of Dr. Kelly Wilson, a well-known Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) expert, things might go terribly, horribly wrong. It’s a sentiment that our brain likes to remind us of, and often in situations or at frequencies that are not AT ALL helpful for our happiness. Sometimes, like a gnat, we can swat it away pretty easily. Other times, it’s all we can think about like waking up at 3 am knowing there must be someone in the house.

In therapy, typical CBT strategies might include filling out a worksheet to examine the evidence for and against our thoughts. However, there are a few potential problems with this approach. One, technically it could happen, so we can’t fully banish the thought as completely impossible. Second, for some of us, this type of exercise just gets our minds more entangled in the issue (e.g. Maybe I do have COVID-19 this time? What if I get it and spread it to someone?). Most problematic is that it creates more distance between us and what we actually want to be putting our attention on like family, nature, netflix….

So, if we don’t want to get in a tug of war with our worry thoughts or get dragged around by them, then what? Russ Harris, MD, another down to earth expert in ACT,, has developed FACE COVID guide. This walks us through step by step of how we can live more peacefully with the (perhaps well-intentioned but overzealous) worrier that is a regular visitor for most of us these days. Experiment with it!

For those that are finding that health anxieties (e.g. Illness Anxiety Disorder, Somatic Symptom Disorder) are taking over you life, talk with a mental health professional with expertise to guide you through the evidence based treatments that can help.

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