Health Anxiety

A common cause of anxiety or worry in patients with a mild head injury is worry about the symptoms they experience.

These are all very understandable questions. We have answered most of them on this page.

Even though your doctor might have reassured you about these things, you may still feel worried. Perhaps you even realize that your worries are irrational, but you can’t shake them off. You might feel the need to attend different doctors to get other opinions or simply to obtain reassurance. Meanwhile increasing levels of anxiety about your symptoms is making them worse, typically with worsening dizziness, headache and tiredness. Looking up your symptoms online can throw up new and more frightening possibilities.

This is called health anxiety. Its actually very common, but difficult for patients and doctors to discuss. The concept of being a ‘hypochondriac’ is one which is generally laughed at in our society. But having health anxiety is actually very distressing for the person concerned. Their symptoms are very real, if they weren’t they wouldn’t be causing so much worry.

What Can I Do to Help Myself Get Better?

NHS – The NHS website has a page on health anxiety with information and useful links.

Health Anxiety Self Help Guide – On the website of Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust, a wide range of self help leaflets is offered. This self help guide explains health anxiety and provides lots of tips to manage it.

These relaxation exercises might help you to take your mind of your worries and decrease feelings of anxiety.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

A small number of people who sustain a mild head injury in a serious accident or assault may develop unpleasant anxiety symptoms, nightmares, or intrusive mental ‘flashbacks’ of the event immediately afterwards. In the vast majority of people these symptoms will settle down over the following weeks as the event becomes an unpleasant memory.

However sometimes these symptoms do not settle down so quickly – or even get worse –  and a condition called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can arise. The main symptoms of PTSD are:

1 – Flashbacks and nightmares, where the person has the unpleasant experience of re-living the emotions, thoughts, and physical sensations of the event.

2 – Avoidance of reminders of the event and a feeling of emotional numbness.

3 – Feeling ‘keyed up’ or ‘on edge’ for most or all of the time.

Often these symptoms will settle down by themselves in the first few weeks after a traumatic event. If the symptoms are still present six weeks after the event, it is worth discussing with a doctor to see if treatment may be helpful.

Further Reading

Royal College of Psychiatrists – The RCP website offers a very informative leaflet on PTSD.

NHS – The NHS website has a page on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), explaining what PTSD is and what the treatment options are.