DiscoverYour Anxiety Toolkit - It's a Beautiful Day to Do Hard ThingsEp. 226 Overcoming Health Anxiety with Ken and Maria
Ep. 226 Overcoming Health Anxiety with Ken and Maria

Ep. 226 Overcoming Health Anxiety with Ken and Maria

Update: 2022-03-18
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SUMMARY:
Overcoming Health Anxiety is possible! Today, we interview Ken Goodman and his client Maria on overcoming hpyochondria using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. In this episode of Your Anxiety Toolkit Podcast, you will learn key concepts of health anxiety and how to overcome their health anxiety.

In This Episode:

  • What it is like to have health anxiety
  • The key concepts of treating Hypochondria
  • Tips for managing fears of death and cancer.
  • A step-by-step approach to overcoming health anxiety.

Links To Things I Talk About:

https://www.kengoodmantherapy.com/
Quiet Mind Solutions
ERP School: https://www.cbtschool.com/erp-school-lp

Episode Sponsor:

This episode of Your Anxiety Toolkit is brought to you by CBTschool.com. CBTschool.com is a psychoeducation platform that provides courses and other online resources for people with anxiety, OCD, and Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors. Go to cbtschool.com to learn more.

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EPISODE TRANSCRIPTION

This is Your Anxiety Toolkit - Episode 226.

Welcome back, everybody. If you have health anxiety, hypochondria, health anxiety disorder, or you know of somebody who has health anxiety, you are going to love this episode. I mean, love, love, love this episode.

Today, we have Ken Goodman, who’s on the show. He’s a clinician who’s here with his patient and they’re sharing a success story, a recovery story of health anxiety, and it is so good. I am so honored to have both of them on. It was so fun to actually interview other people and the way they’re doing it, and look at the steps that were taken in order to overcome health anxiety. And this is the overcoming health anxiety story of all stories. It is so, so good. I’m not going to waste your time going and telling you how good it is. I’m just going to let you listen to it because I know you’re here to get the good stuff.

Before we do that, I wanted to do the “I did a hard thing” and this one is from Dave. It says:

“I’ve been trying to get back into meditating regularly. I was sitting at a desk this morning, reviewing my work emails. And I told myself, before I get even further in my day, I need to meditate. I did a guided meditation, even though I felt a strong pull inside to go back to work. I kept getting caught up in my thoughts, but I just kept telling myself it doesn’t need to be a perfect meditation. I said the goal today is just to be able to sit without being busy for three minutes. Nothing more. It was hard, but I did it.”

Dave, thank you so much for the submission of the “I did a hard thing” segment, because I think that meditation is so important. In fact, I keep promising myself I’m going to implement it more into this podcast. And Dave has really looked at some of the struggles people have with meditation. And look at him, go, it’s so amazing. Totally did it. So amazing. Dave, thank you so, so, so much. I love it. If you want to submit, you may submit your “I did a hard thing” by going to KimberleyQuinlan-lmft.com. If you go to the podcast page, there is a submission page right on the website. And from there, let’s just go straight to the show. I hope you enjoy it.

Overcoming Health Anxiety with Ken Goodman and Maria Your anxiety toolkit

Kimberley: Welcome. I am so excited for this episode. Welcome, Ken and welcome, Maria.

Ken: Thank you for having me.

Maria: Hi, Kimberley.

Kimberley: So, as you guys, we’ve already chatted, but I really want to hear. This is really quite unique and we get to see the perspective of a client and the therapist. If I could do one of these every single week, I would. I think it’s so cool. So, thank you so much for coming on and sharing. We’re going to talk about health anxiety. And so, Maria, we’re going to go back and forth here, but do you want to share a little bit about your experience with health anxiety?

Maria: Yes. I think I’ve had health anxiety probably for like 15, 20 years and not known about it. Looking back now, everything comes clear when you see the multiple pictures that you’ve taken of certain lumps and whatever five years ago. I’m like, “Oh my gosh, I have so many pictures that I’ve taken and so many different things.” But yeah, I’ve been struggling for a while I think, and had multiple doctor’s appointments. Until I realized that I had health anxiety, it was an everyday struggle, I think.

Ken: Well, you came to me and you were mostly worried at the time about ticks and Lyme disease and skin cancer, but you told me that for the previous 15 years or so, you were worried about other things. What are those things?

Maria: Well, I was mostly completely obsessed with moles on my skin and them being cancerous. And I was scared of ticks. I would not be able to walk through any grass or go hiking. I was scared that I would have to check my whole body to make sure that there were no ticks on me. I was completely scared of Lyme disease, and it just completely consumed my life really. And they were the main things. But looking back before that, I think that I always had a doctor’s appointment on the go. I would book one, and as soon as they said, “You can book online,” That was it for me. I would have one booked, and then I’d go, “Oh, what if there’s something else next week? You know what, I’m just going to book one for next week, just in case something comes up.” I am a terrible person when it comes to that because I’m taking up multiple doctor’s appointments. And I knew that. But it was trying to reassure myself, trying to control the situation, trying to control next week already before it even happened. So, yeah.

MARIA’S SYMPTOMS OF HEALTH ANXIETY

Kimberley: Right. What did it look like for you? What did a day look like for you pre-treatment and pre-recovery?

Maria: Some days it could be fine. I remember days where nothing was bothering me. It was such a nice feeling. And then I was scared because I never knew what was going to trigger me and it could be anything at any time. And I think that was the not knowing. And then as soon as I would latch onto something, I would come to the phone, I’d start Googling over and over again, hours of Googling and then checking. And then it was just ongoing. And then my whole day, I was in my head my whole day, just what if, what if, asking questions, going back to Google, trying to find that reassurance that of course never happened.

Ken: Yeah. You tell me that you would take pictures of your moles and then compare them with the cancerous moles online and do those things.

Maria: Yeah. And I would book-- and interestingly enough, looking back now, I went through a phase of always having a doctor’s appointment. And then I also went through a phase of completely avoiding the doctor as well, not wanting to go because I didn’t want them to say something that I knew was going to trigger a whole host of anxiety. So, I’ve gone through multiple doctors. And then once you start the doctor’s appointments, then you’re on a roller coaster. Because you walk away from that appointment, never feeling, or for me, never feeling reassured. Or feeling reassured for maybe a few minutes, and then you leave, and then the anxiety kicks in. “Oh, I never asked them this,” or “Oh my gosh, well, what did that mean?” And then the what-ifs start again and you’re back to square one. So then, you go, “Oh, no, I didn’t try just what they said. I’m going to book another appointment and this doctor is going to be the doctor that reassures me.”

MANAGING DOCTOR VISITS WITH HYPOCHONDRIA

Kimberley: Right. Or sometimes a lot of clients will say to me like, “The doctor made a face. What did that face mean? They made a look and it was just for a second, but were they questioning their own diagnosis and so forth?” And I think that is really common as well.

Ken: Well, the doctor will say anything and it could be something very simple like, “Okay, you’re all good. I’ll see you in six months.” And the person will leave thinking, “Why would he want me to come back in six months if nothing was wrong?”

Maria: Well, that’s interesting that you would say that because I think probably at my lowest point, I was keeping notes about my thought process and what I was feeling when I was actually going to the doctors or waiting for the results. And actually, I thought it might-- if I have a few minutes to read what I actually was going through in real-time, I know it’s probably very relatable.

Kimberley: I would love that.

Maria: I had gone to basically a doctor’s appointment, an annual one where I knew I was going to have to have blood tests. And they’re the worst for me because the anticipation of getting the results is just almost worse than getting the results, even though--

Ken: Did you write this before we met?

Maria: No. While I was seeing you, Ken.

Ken: In the beginning?

Maria: Yeah. When you’d asked me to write down everything and write down what I was feeling, what I was thinking, and then read it back to myself. And this is what I had written down, actually, when I was going through the doctor’s appointment and waiting or had just gotten the results.

Kimberley: If you would share, that’d be so grateful.

Maria: So, my blood results came back today. I felt very nervous about opening them. The doctor wrote a note at the top. “Your blood results are mostly normal. Your cholesterol is slightly high, but no need for medication. Carry on with exercise and healthy eating.” “Mostly,” what does that mean? “Mostly”? I need to look at all the numbers and make sure that everything is in the normal range. “Okay, they’re all in the normal range except for my cholesterol. But why does she write mostly? Is there something else that she’s not telling me? I need reassurance. I’m driving down to the doctor’s right now. I can’t wait the whole weekend.” I go into the doctor’s office and ask them, “Is there a doctor who’s able to explain to me my results?” The receptionist said, “No, you have to make another appointment.” I explained to her, “You don’t understand. I just need somebody to tell me that everything is normal.”

Finally, this nice lady saw the anxiety on my face. She calls the doctor over to look at the labs. The receptionist shows the doctor the one lab panel, and he says, “Everything is completely normal. Nothing was flagged. Everything is completely fine.” I thank him so much for looking and walk away. As soon as I get outside, I realize I didn’t ask him to look at all the lab panels. What if she meant mostly normal on the other lab panels that I didn’t show him? When I get home, I look over each one multiple times and make sure that each one is in the exact number range. After looking over them four or five times and seeing that each one is in the number range except for my cholesterol, I still feel like I need to have her explain to me why she wrote the word “mostly.” The crazy thing is I’m not concerned about the high cholesterol. I can control that. I don’t know what she meant by the word “mostly.” I’m going to send her a message. And I’m going to ask her to clarify. I have to believe that she would tell me if something was wrong. I wish there was an off button in my head to stop me worrying about this.

Ken: I remember this now. I remember. And this was in the middle. Maria was really avoiding going to the doctor and she had overdue with some physical exams. And so, we really worked hard for her to stop avoiding that. She got to the point where she felt good enough about going to the doctor. And she really, I think I remember her not having any anticipatory anxiety, handling the doctor very well, host the doctor very well, until she got the email and focused on the word “mostly.” And that sent her spiraling out of control. But the interesting thing about that whole experience was that we processed it afterwards, and that whole experience motivated her to try even harder. And then she took even bigger strides forward. And within a couple of months, she was really doing so much better. And I think it’s been over a year now since that and continues to do really well.

Kimberley: Yeah. Thank you so much for sharing that. I actually was tearing up. Tears were starting to come because I was thinking, I totally get that experience. I’m so grateful you shared it because I think so many people do, right?

Maria: Yeah. And there’s always and/or. You go into the doctor’s appointment, they tell you everything. And because your adrenaline is absolutely pumping, you forget everything. And then you come out and you go, “Oh my gosh, I can’t remember anything.” Then the anxiety kicks in and tells you what the anxiety is like, “Oh no, that must have been bad. That must have been--” yeah.

Ken: And that boost in adrenaline that just takes over is so powerful. You can forget any common sense or any therapeutic strategies or tools that you might have learned because now you just get preoccupied with one word, the uncertainty of that word.

Maria: Yeah. I would have to have a family member come in, my husband to come in and sit in the-- it got to that point where he would have to come in and sit in the appointment, so then after the appointment, I could have him retell me what was said, because I knew as soon as the adrenaline kicked in, I would not be able to remember anything.

ROADBLOCKS TO HEALTH ANXIETY TREATMENT

Kimberley: Right. Ken, this brings me straight to the next question, which would be like, what roadblocks do you commonly see patients hit specifically if they have health anxiety during recovery or treatment?

Ken: Well, unlike other fears and phobias, the triggers for health anxiety are very unpredictable. So, if you have a fear of elevators, flying or public speaking, you know when your flight is going to be, you know when you have to speak or you know when you have to drive if you have a fear of driving. For health anxiety, you never know when you’re going to be triggered. And those triggers can be internal, like a physical sensation, because the body is very noisy. And everyone experiences physical sensations periodically and you never know when that’s going to happen. And then you never know external triggers. You never know when the doctor is going to say something that might trigger you, or you see a social media post about a GoFundMe account about someone that you know who knows someone who’s been diagnosed with ALS. So, you never know when these things are going to happen. And so, you might be doing well for a couple of weeks or even a month, and suddenly there’s a trigger and you’re right back to where you started from. And so, in that way, it feels very frustrating because you can do well and then you can start becoming extremely anxious again.

Another roadblock I think might be if you need medicine, there’s a fear of trying medicine because of potential for side effects and becomes overblown and what are the long-term side effects, and even if I take it, I’m going to become very anxious. And so, people then are not taking the very thing, the medicine that could actually help them reduce their anxiety. So, that’s another roadblock.

Kimberley: Yeah. I love those. And I think that they’re by far the most hurdles. And Maria, you could maybe even chime in, what did you feel your biggest roadblock to recovery was?

Maria: Being okay with the unknown. Trying to be in control all the time is exhausting and trying to constantly have that reassurance and coming to terms with, “It’s okay if I can’t control everything. It’s okay if I don’t get the 100% reassurance that I need. It’s good enough,” that was hard for me. And also, not picking up the phone and Googling was the biggest. I think once I stopped that and I was okay with not looking constantly, that was a huge step forward.

Ken: You really learn to live with uncertainty. And I think you start to understand that if you had to demand 100% certainty, you had to keep your anxiety disorder. In order to be 100% certain, that meant keep staying anxious.

Kimberley: Yeah. Being stuck in that cycle forever.

Ken: You didn’t want that anymore. You wanted to focus on living your life rather than being preoccupied with preventing death.

SKILLS AND TOOLS TO OVERCOME HEALTH ANXIETY

Kimberley: Right. So, Maria, I mean, that’s probably, from my experience as a clinician, one of the most important skills, the ability to tolerate and be uncertain. Were there other specific tools that you felt were really important for your recovery at the beginning and middle and end, and as you continue to live your life?

Maria: Yes. I think the biggest one was me separating my anxiety from myself, if that makes sense. Seeing it as a separate-- I don’t even know, like a separate entity, not feeling like it was me. I had to look at it as something that was trying to control me, but I was fine. I needed to fight the anxiety. And separating it was hard in the beginning. But then I think once I really can help me to understand how to do that, at that point, I think I started to move forward a bit more.

Kimberley: So, you externalized it. For me, I give it a name like Linda. “Hi, Linda,” or whatever name you want to give your anxiety. A lot of kids do that as well like Mr. Candyman or whatever.

Maria: Yeah. It sat on my shoulder and try to get in my head. In the beginning, I would be brushing off my shoulder constantly. Literally, I must have looked crazy because I was brushing this anxiety off my shoulder every 10 minutes with another what-if. What if this? What if that? And I think I had to retrain my brain. I had to just start not believing and being distracted constantly by the “What if you do this” or “What if that?” and I’d say, “No, no.”

Ken: Yeah. I’d treat a lot of health anxiety. I have a lot of health anxiety groups. And I do notice that the patients that can externalize their anxiety and personify it do way better than the people who have trouble with it. And so, whether it’s a child or a teenager or an adult, I am having them externalize their anxiety. And I go into that, not only in my groups, but in the audio program I created called the Anxiety Solution Series. It is all about how to do that. And it makes things so much easier. If now you’re not fighting with yourself, there’s no internal struggle anymore because now you’re just competing against an opponent who’s outside of you. It makes things easier.

Kimberley: Right. Yeah. And sometimes when that voice is there and you believe it to be you, it can make you feel a little crazy. But when you can externalize it, it separates you from that feeling of going crazy as well.

Maria: I felt so much better as soon as I did that because I felt, “Okay, I think I can fight this. This isn’t me. I’m not going crazy. This is something that I--” and I started to not believe. And it was long, but it was retraining my brain. And I would question the what-ifs and it didn’t make sense to me anymore. Or I would write it down and then I would read it back to me, myself, and I’d be like, “That’s ridiculous, what I just thought.” And the other tool which was hugely helpful was breathing, learning how to breathe properly and calm myself down. I mean--

Ken: Yeah. There’s lots of different types of breathing out there. And so, I teach a specific type of breathing, which is, I call it Three by Three Relaxation Breathing, which is also in the Anxiety Solution Series. And it really goes over into detail, a very simple way to breathe that you can do it anywhere. You can do it in a waiting room full of people, because it’s very subtle. It’s not something where you’re taking a big breath and people are looking at you. It’s very, very subtle. You can do it anywhere.

MEDITATION FOR HEALTH ANXIETY

Kimberley: Ken, just so that I understand, and also Maria, how does that help someone? For someone who has struggled with breathing or is afraid of meditation hor health anxiety and they’ve had a bad experience, how does the breathing specifically help, even, like you were saying, in a doctor’s appointment office?

Maria: I’ve done it actually in multiple doctor’s appointments where I’ve had that feeling of, “I’ve got to get out of here now.” It’s that feeling of, “Uh, no. Right now, I need to leave.” Before, before I started, I would leave. And now I realized, no, I’m not. I’m going to sit and I’m going to breathe. And no one notices. No one can see it. You can breathe and it really does calm me down, especially in the past, I’ve had panic attacks and feeling like I can’t breathe myself. When you start to realized that you can control it and it does relax you, it really helps me a lot. I do it all the time.

Kimberley: It’s like a distress tolerance tool then, would you say?

Maria: It’s something that I can carry around with me all the time, because everyone needs to breathe.

Kimberley: Yeah. I always say that your breath is free. It’s a free tool. You could take it anywhere. It’s perfect.

Maria: Yeah. So, it’s something that I can do for myself. I can rely on my breathing. And now knowing after Ken teaching me really how to do it properly, it’s just invaluable. It really is, and empowering in a way. Now, when I feel like I can’t be somewhere, and in fact just not so long ago, I was in a doctor’s appointment, not for myself, but I sat there and it was really high up and there was lots of windows around. Of course, I don’t like being [00:22:34 inaudible]. And I felt I have to get out. “Nope, I’m not going to do it. I’m not going to do it.” I sat there, I did my breathing. I actually put my earphones in and started listening to Ken’s anxiety solutions and listened and took my mind off of it, and I was fine. I didn’t leave. And actually, I walked away feeling empowered afterwards. So, it’s huge. It’s really helpful.

Ken: Yeah. You just said a couple of very important things. You made a decision not to flee, so you decided right there, “I’m not going anywhere. So, I’m going to stay here. I’m going to tolerate that discomfort, but I’m going to focus on something else. I’m going to focus on my breathing. I’m going to listen to the Anxiety Solution Series.” And then by doing that, I’m assuming your anxiety either was contained, it stayed the same, or maybe it was reduced. Yeah?

Maria: Yeah, it was reduced. It stayed the same. And then it started to reduce. And naturally, by the end, I was like, “I’m fine. Nothing is going to happen.” So, it was great. And the other-- I want to say actually one more thing that really, really helped me. And it was actually a turning point, was that I was in another appointment. The doctor came in and told me I was fine. And it was actually like an appointment where they had called me back medically. So, it was a different scenario. It wasn’t me creating something in my head. But anyway, there was a lot of anticipation beforehand and he came in and he said, “You are fine. Go live your life.” And I walked away and I went home. And within maybe about 40 minutes, I said, “Maybe he was lying to me. Maybe he was just trying to make me feel good because he saw how anxious I was.” And at that point I realized, this is never going to stop, never. Unless I fight back, I will never-- I felt robbed of the relief that I should have felt. When he told me that, I wasn’t getting that relief and I was never going to have that relief unless I used-- and at that point, I actually got angry. And I remember telling Ken, I was like, “I’m so angry because I felt robbed of the relief.” And at that point, I think I then kicked up my practicing of everything tenfold. And that was a turning point for me.

Ken: Yeah. That anger really helped you. And anxiety is a very, very powerful emotion, but if you can access or manufacture a different emotion, a competing emotion, and anger is just one of them, you can often mitigate the anxiety. You can push through it. And for you, it was an invaluable resource, because it was natural. You actually felt angry. For other people, they have to manufacture it and get really tough with their anxiety. But for you, you at that moment naturally felt it.

And you’re right. You said it is never going to stop. And physical sensations, the body is noisy. People will have the rest of their life. You’re going to have a noisy body. So, that will never stop. It’s your reaction and your response to those physical sensations that is key. And you learn how to respond in a much more healthy way to whenever you got any sort of trigger external or internal.

TREATMENT FOR HEALTH ANXIETY/HYPOCHONDRIA

Kimberley: It’s really accepting that you don’t have control over anxiety. So, taking control where you have it, which is over your reactions. And I agree, I’ve had many clients who needed to hit rock bottom for a certain amount of time and see it play out and see that the compulsions didn’t work to be like, “All right, I have to do something different. This is never going to end.” And I think that that insight too can be a real motivator for treatment of like, “I can’t get the relief. It doesn’t end up lasting and I deserve that like everybody else.” So, Ken, how do you see as a clinician the differences in recovery and treatment for different people? Do you feel like it’s the same for everybody, or do you see that there are some differences depending on the person?

Ken: Well, when I treat people with health anxiety, although the content of their specific fears might be different – some might worry more about their heart, some might worry more about shaking that they experience and worry about ALS – the treatment is basically the same, which is why I can treat them in classes or groups because it’s basically the same. There are some variations. Some people are more worried about things, where other people feel more physical sensations. And I may have to tailor that a bit. So, some people have to-- their problems are more the physical sensations that they feel and they can’t tolerate those physical sensations. And other people it’s more mental. They’re just constantly worried about things. But in general, they can be treated very similarly. It’s learning how to tolerate both the uncertainty and the discomfort and the stress that they feel.

Kimberley: Right. And I’ll add, I think the only thing that I notice as a difference is some people have a lot of insight about their disorder and some don’t. Some are really able to identify like, “Ah, this is totally Linda, my anxiety,” or whatever you want to name your anxiety. “This is my anxiety doing this.” Whereas some people I’ve experienced as a clinician, every single time it is cancer in their mind and they have a really hard time believing anything else. Like you said, they feel it to be true. Do you agree with that?

Ken: Completely. Yeah. Some people will come to me and they know it’s probably anxiety, but they’re not sure. And some people, they are thoroughly convinced that they have that disease or that disorder. And even after months and months and months of-- and oftentimes the content changes. So, I have patients who, when I first start seeing them, they might be afraid of cancer. And then two months later, it’s their heart. And then a couple of months later after that, it’s something else. There’s always something that can come up and they’re always believing it’s something medical. And of course, they go back to, “Well, what if this time it is? What if this time it is cancer?” And that’s where they get caught in the trap. So, for them, it’s answering that question. For Maria, it’s the word “mostly” that she became fixated on to get lured in and take the bait. It’s like, what happens to a fish that takes the bait? Now they’re struggling. So, now once you take the bait, you’re struggling.

Kimberley: Right. And I would say, I mean, I’ll personally explain. A lot of my listeners know this, but I’ll share it with you guys. I have a lesion on the back of my brain that I know is there. And I have an MRI every six months. And I have a lot of clients who have a medical illness and they have health anxiety, and it’s really managing, following the doctor’s protocol, but not doing anything above and beyond that because it’s so easy to be like, “Well, maybe I’ll just schedule it a little earlier because it is there and I really should be keeping an eye on it.” And that has been an interesting process for me with the medical illness to tweak the treatment there as well.

Ken: Yes, absolutely. I have a patient right now and she has a legitimate heart issue that is not dangerous. They’ve had many, many tests, but all of a sudden, her heart will just start racing really fast, just out of the blue. And it happens randomly and seems like stress exacerbates the frequency of it. But it’s not just irritating for her, it was scary because every time she would experience it, she thought, “Maybe this is it. I’m having a heart attack.” But she really had to learn to tolerate that discomfort, that it was going to happen sometimes and that was okay. It happens and you just have to learn to live with it.

Kimberley: Right. So, Maria, this is the question I’m most excited about asking you. Tell me now what a doctor’s appointment looks like for you.

Maria: It looks a lot better. You can actually pick up the phone and book an appointment now without avoiding it. I practice everything that I’ve learned. I’m not going to lie. The anticipation, maybe a couple of days before, is still there. However, it’s really not as bad as it was before. I mean, before, I would be a complete mess before I even walked into the doctor’s office. Now, I can walk in and I’m doing my breathing and I’m not asking multiple questions. I’m now okay with trusting what the doctor has to say. Whereas before, if I didn’t like what he had to say or he didn’t say exactly the way I wanted to hear it, I’d go to another doctor. But now, I’m okay with it. And it’s still something I don’t necessarily want to do. But leaps and bounds better. Leaps and bounds really. I can go in by myself, have a doctor’s appointment, ask the regular questions and say, “Give me the answers,” and leave and be okay with it.

GETTING TEST RESULTS WITH HEALTH ANXIETY

Kimberley: How do you tolerate the times between the test and the test results? How do you work through that? Because sometimes it can take a week. You know what I mean? Sometimes it’s a long time.

Maria: Yeah. I mean, I haven’t-- so, obviously, it’s yearly. So, I’m at that point next year where I will have to go and have all my tests again and get the results and anticipate. But I think for me, the biggest thing is distraction and trying not to focus too much beforehand and staying calm and relaxed. And that’s really it. I mean, there’s always going to be anxiety there for me, I think, going to the doctors. It’s not ever going to go away. I’m okay with that. But it’s learning how to keep it at a point where I can understand what they’re telling me and not make it into something completely different.

Ken: I think you said the keywords – where you’re putting your focus. So, before, your focus was on answering those what-if questions and the catastrophic possible results. And now I think your focus is on just living your life, just going about living your life and not worrying or thinking about what the catastrophic possibilities could be. Is that accurate? Would you say it’s accurate?

Maria: Yeah. Because if you start going down that road of what-if, you’re already entering that zone, which it is just, you’re never going to get the answer that you want. And it’s hard because sometimes I would sit and say to myself, “I’m going to logically think this out.” And I would pretend. I mean, I even mentioned to Ken, “No, no, I’m logically thinking this out. This is what anyone would do. I’m sat there and I’m working out in my head.” And he said, “You’ve already engaged. You’ve already engaged with the anxiety.” “Have I?” And he said, “Yeah. By working it out in your head, you’re engaging with the anxiety.” And that was a breakthrough as well because I thought to myself after, “I am.” I’m already wrapped up in my head logically thinking that I’m not engaging, but I’m completely engaging. So, that was an interesting turning point as well, I think.

Kimberley: Amazing. You’ve come a long, long, long way. I’m so happy to hear that. Ken, before we wrap up, is there anything that you feel people need to know or some major points that you want to give or one key thing that they should know if they have health anxiety?

Ken: Oh my gosh, there are so many. There is a tendency for people with all types of anxiety to really focus their attention on the catastrophic possibilities instead of the odds of those catastrophic possibilities happening. The odds are incredibly low. And so, if you’re focusing on the fact that it’s probably not likely that this is going to happen, then you’ll probably go through your life and be okay if you can focus your attention on living your life. But if you focus on those catastrophic possibilities that are possible, they are, then you’re going to go through life feeling very, very anxious. And if you focus on trying to prevent death, prevent suffering, then you’re not really living your life.

Kimberley: That’s it right there. That’s the phrase of the episode, I think, because I think that’s the most important key part. I cannot thank you both enough for coming on.

Ken: This is fun. This is great.

Maria: It was fun.

Kimberley: Maria, your story is so inspiring and you’re so eloquent in how you shared it. I teared up twice during this episode just because I know that feeling and I just love that you’ve done that work. So, thank you so much for sharing.

Ken: Yeah. She’s really proof that someone who’s suffered for 15, 20, some odd years with anxiety can get better. They just have to be really determined and really apply the strategies and be consistent. She did a great job.

Kimberley: Yeah. Massive respect for you, Maria.

Maria: Oh, thank you.

Kimberley: Amazing. Ken, before we finish up, do you have any-- you want to share with us where people can hear from you or get access to your good stuff?

Ken: Yeah. So, quietmindsolutions.com, I have a whole bunch of information on health anxiety. I have two webinars in health anxiety on that website, as well as other webinars in other specialties I have. Also, I have the Anxiety Solution Series, which is a 12-hour audio program, which focuses on all types of anxiety, including health anxiety, as well as others. And you can listen to a few chapters for free just to see if you would like it, if you could relate to it. And there’s other programs, other articles, and videos that I produced. I have a coloring self-help book, which is basically a self-help for people with anxiety, but every chapter has a coloring illustration where you color. And the coloring illustration actually-- what’s the word I’m looking for? It’s basically a representation of what you learn in that chapter. It strengthens what you learn in that chapter.

Kimberley: Cool.

Ken: Yeah. And then a book called The Emetophobia Manual, which is a book for people who have fear of vomiting.

Kimberley: Amazing. And we’ll have all those links in the show notes for people as well. So, go to the show notes if you’re interested in getting those links.

Ken: Ken Goodman Therapy is the other website. It has similar information.

Maria: I wanted to mention as well that I actually watched one of Ken’s webinars quite by accident in the beginning before I realized I had health anxiety. And after watching it, I thought, “Oh my gosh, I’ve got that.” And so, it was hugely, hugely helpful because I think that having this for so many years and not realizing, there’s a lot of people that still don’t realize that they suffer from health anxiety. For me, as soon as I could label it as something, it was a relief because now I could find the tools and the help to work on it and get that relief.

Kimberley: Amazing. Okay. Well, my heart is so full. Thank you both for coming on. It’s really a pleasure to hear this story. So inspiring. So, thank you.

Ken: Yeah. Thank you for doing this, Kimberley.

Maria: Thank you.

Ken: And thanks, Maria.

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Thank you so much for listening. Before we finish up, we’re going to do the review of the week. This is from kdeemo, and they said:

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Oh, I’m so, so grateful to have you kdeemo in our community. This is a beautiful, beautiful space. My hope is that it’s different to every other podcast you listen to in that we give you a little bit of tools, a little bit of tips, but a huge degree of love and support and compassion and encouragement. So, thank you so much for your review. I love getting your reviews. It helps me to really double down in my mission here to give as many practical free tools as I can. It is true, it is a gift to be able to do that. So, if you could please leave a review, I would be so, so grateful. You can click wherever you’re listening and leave a review there. Have a wonderful day.

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Ep. 226 Overcoming Health Anxiety with Ken and Maria

Ep. 226 Overcoming Health Anxiety with Ken and Maria