Something's not right : exploring the lived experience of health anxiety : thesis submitted in partial completion of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Clinical Psychology, Massey University, Albany, New Zealand

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Changes in the diagnostic criteria for health anxiety calls for a closer investigation of the experiences of those who excessively worry about their health. This study uses a social constructionist perspective to qualitatively investigate the lived experience of people who identify as excessively worrying about their health. Experiences of nine participants were explored in semi-structured interviews. Through a thematic analysis, six key themes were identified: ‘relationships’, ‘invalidation’, ‘insight’, ‘better safe than sorry’, ‘vulnerability’ and ‘therapy.’ Overall, participants experience their health anxiety as debilitating, with challenges that included interactions with health professionals, a sense of responsibility for health and a feeling of vulnerability in relation to their bodies. However, previous research suggesting a lack of insight in health anxiety was called into question and the benefits of interacting with psychological therapies shared. Participants reflected a sense of invalidation within the medical sphere and a need for recognition, support and engagement with professionals that does not serve to further stigmatise this group.
Hypochondria, New Zealand, Patients, Attitudes