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You Said It... "How do I deal with my Health Anxiety?"

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I've been battling with health anxiety lately. I'm a chronic pain patient who doesn’t have access to injections I need. Now my anxiety is manifesting symptoms in my throat. This is a horrible time. First panic attack in 10-plus years last night.

This is definitely a horrible time for many. A panic attack is a pretty uncomfortable experience, but remember that panic attacks are not dangerous. They are your body’s fear response being activated, and it sounds as if your increased anxiety about your health and pain was the trigger. As well, your anxiety might be showing up in your body in different ways – i.e., a ‘lump in the throat’ is not an unusual symptom of anxiety.

Here are some suggestions for anyone who is dealing with a chronic condition, including chronic pain: Focus on what you can control. While it doesn’t seem you can control your access to one of your treatments, there may be other things you still have control over. As well, anything you can do to manage your emotional vulnerability can help with your physical symptoms.

DBT, or Dialectical Behaviour Therapy, has a good acronym that can help us remember how we can take care of ourselves – the ABC PLEASE Skill. It will help reduce our vulnerability to disease, illness and emotional crises. Here’s a brief summary:

ABC PLEASE Skill

A - Accumulate positive emotions. The easiest way to do this is to do things that bring you pleasure.

B - Build Mastery. Do activities that make you feel competent and a sense of completion. 

C - Cope Ahead. Rehearse or practice coping plans so that when you are faced with a stressor, you can cope with skill. 

PLEASE:

PL - Treat Physical Illness and take medications as prescribed

E - Use balanced Eating to try and avoid mood swings

A - Avoid mood-Altering substances to keep moods steady

S - Maintain good Sleep hygiene

E - Exercise to release natural mood-boosting chemicals in your body

A panic attack is a pretty uncomfortable experience, but remember that panic attacks are not dangerous.

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