Hello, friends! This is a super interesting interview with Dr. Gordon J. G. Asmundson, a registered doctoral psychologist and author of “It’s Not All in Your Head: How Worrying about Your Health Could Be Making You Sick — and What You Can Do About It“. Health Anxiety has been a major topic that has been requested for a very long time and so Dr. Asmundson is here to share some of his expertise. We chat about health anxiety in general, some tips and techniques you can use to cope with it, as well as ways you can get started on overcoming health anxiety.
Final Call! Kick Anxiety’s Ass
MASSIVE price reduction from $300 to $75 is still active but only for a couple more days until March 16th at midnight when I close enrollments for some time so we can revamp and improve the course – You can read the full announcement right here. This will give you full, lifetime access to the course, including all future updates! So don’t miss out on the chance to jump on this great offer! Learn more about this 10-module comprehensive anxiety course developed by me, a licensed clinical psychologist, by visiting kickanxietycourse.com.
Introducing Dr. Gordon J. G. Asmundson
Dr. Asmundson opens by telling us a bit about himself and the different roles that he has within his work, which include running a small private practice where he sees individuals primarily with anxiety-related conditions including post-traumatic stress and health anxiety. However, he spends the majority of his time training the next generation of clinicians while also doing research of his own into many different aspects of anxiety-related disorders. Gordon is also the editor in chief of the Journal of Anxiety Disorders and has a similar role as the development editor of Clinical Psychology Review. We talk about some of the latest research that Gordon and his team have been conducting, including understanding and treating post-traumatic stress disorder, and the application of exercise in aiding CBT and mental health. We talk about this in more detail, including some of the latest findings from this research area. Next, Gordon shares a little bit about his background and how he got into the field of Psychology, as well as his take on cognitive behavioral therapy and how we as humans operate.
Health Anxiety with Dr. Asmundson
We talk about health anxiety in detail and Gordon offers his explanation with respect to what health anxiety actually is. Gordon explains how health anxiety is the worry or concern an individual has with respect to something being physically wrong which could result in their demise – for example, jumping to the worst-case scenario when you experience a pain in your head…could that be a brain tumor? We discuss how it’s very difficult to distinguish a clear line between physiological symptoms arising from anxiety and those which may be resulting from a more serious physiological condition as there is a lot of overlap in the types of symptoms one can experience. Gordon talks in more detail about how we begin to untangle this. He explains how we all have “bodily noise” and so it’s important to help others to distinguish when they are just anxiety related vs. a symptom of something more serious.
The goal is to help a person discover non-diseased based explanations for bodily sensations or changes they’re experiencing…provided that it doesn’t have a medical basis.
Gordon describes how it’s important to find a balance and be able to distinguish between a healthy degree of caution or interest in an issue versus being anxious or compulsive about an issue – helping individuals to do this is what forms the basis of treatment for health anxiety. We chat about this in more depth and Gordon offers his advice for those who may be dealing with health anxiety. He stresses how it’s important to recognize that what they are experiencing is real. It may not be disease-based, but those bodily sensations and changes or those bodily noises that they are experiencing is real. So it’s not all in their head, it’s something they experience. Gordon walks us through the processes and steps that are taken in helping somebody cope with, and overcome, health anxiety, and the treatment methods which can be helpful. He also highlights how it’s important for primary care providers to recognize when anxiety may be at play and to take the necessary action and reassurance in helping an individual explore that further.
We talk about the flip side to this when it can be hard for individuals to be taken seriously when their file has anxiety tagged on it – it becomes the easy label to assign to the cause of problems, which can make it even harder for those who suffer from health anxiety. But the physical manifestations of anxiety are just as real and should be treated as such. We chat about this further and how you shouldn’t be hard on yourself because your symptoms are “just” anxiety.
The bottom line is what you’re feeling is real.
Gordon explains how it becomes important to explore these feelings and sensations in an attempt to understand the root cause, whether it be physical or psychological. If not physical, then exploring alternative explanations that may explain why these symptoms are occurring. We talk about some of the strategies that have been used to help pinpoint and relieve the symptoms of health anxiety, and how relaxation techniques can be extremely helpful.
We also discuss the link between pain and mental health and whether such strategies can help reduce symptoms when living with chronic pain. Gordon offers his thoughts on this and highlights research which suggests this may indeed be the case. Good pain management plans should work towards helping one function despite the pain, not just reducing the pain. In many instances, the strategies and coping techniques put in place to help one function and manage daily life with chronic pain will in time also help to reduce the pain. We chat further about this, as well as highlighting the importance and need for a good, collaborative team (i.e. primary care provider and mental health clinician) who can work together with you to help address these issues, whether it be with health anxiety, pain anxiety, or chronic pain.
Final thoughts with Dr. Asmundson
Before closing, Gordon offers some helpful advice for those who may suspect they are struggling with health anxiety but have not started down the road of addressing this or seeking help. If you’re experiencing something that you are worried about then the most important thing is to go and see your doctor. If there is nothing physically wrong, then it’s time to start looking for alternative explanations with the help of a mental health professional. Finally, Gordon points listeners to some helpful resources including his book “It’s Not All in Your Head: How Worrying about Your Health Could Be Making You Sick — and What You Can Do About It” as well as a book by Owens and Antony called “Overcoming Health Anxiety: Letting Go of Your Fear of Illness“, both of which are great resources for individuals who might be struggling with health anxiety.
With that, we come to the end of our interview. I’d like to thank Dr. Asmundson for coming on the show and sharing his expertise on health anxiety with us. If you’d like to find out more about Gordon, his work and research, you can do so right here on his academic profile.
This episode of Hardcore Self Help is sponsored by BetterHelp.
BetterHelp is an online therapy platform that provides affordable and convenient access to professional counseling with a licensed psychologist. Head over to BetterHelp to start taking charge of your mental health. As a special offer for the HCSH audience, you get 10% off your first month at betterhelp.com/duff.
Thanks for Listening!
If you know someone else who might benefit from today’s show, please do share it with them. Send them a link or shoot over a screenshot, and share it on social media to show your support – you never know who needs to hear this type of information.
Got a topic or a guest you’d like to appear on the show? Or interested in having Duff answer a question on the podcast? Please get in touch! Email Duff and maybe you’ll hear it on a future episode!
Want to help out the show and Duff the Psych?
- Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes.
- Leave a podcast review on iTunes. These reviews really help Duff reach potential listeners, and he appreciates every one!
- Share the show on Facebook or Twitter.
- You can also buy Duff a cup of coffee, which helps fuel the energy that goes straight back into creating more content for YOU!