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6 Mins

Health anxiety over your child's wellbeing

July 31, 2023

The summer holidays are here, and for many of us, that means a chance to enjoy some time with our kids. But, when you experience health anxiety over your child’s wellbeing, it’s not always that simple.

Worrying about your child is natural; not only do you love them immensely, you’re also responsible for their welfare. This can feel like a lot of pressure, so it’s not surprising that you might overthink situations sometimes, especially when it comes to their health as the stakes are high.

While all loving parents share concerns over their children every now and then, it’s a problem when these fears begin to take over your life, especially if there’s not necessarily anything wrong with your child. If you find yourself constantly worrying, it’s time to address the situation, for yours and your family’s sake.

What does parental anxiety look like?

  • Constantly worrying that something bad will happen to your child (such as them getting a serious illness or having a terrible accident)
  • Shielding your child or removing them from safe situations due to your own fears
  • Quickly jumping to the worst case scenario (for example, when they’re unwell, you assume it’s fatal)
  • Spending a lot of time researching parenting questions or health information
  • Being unable to switch off and focus on yourself
  • Feeling the need to talk to others about your fears and seek reassurance, even if it’s within earshot of your child

Understanding your triggers

A mental health ‘trigger’ is something that provokes an emotional response and sets off your symptoms. If you’re struggling with health anxiety over your child’s wellbeing, your triggers may be to do with their physical health, mental wellbeing, growth and development.

When your anxiety is triggered, it’s easy to overthink a situation and blow it out of proportion. For example, if your baby doesn’t reach a certain milestone at the age that you expected, you may become convinced that there’s something seriously wrong with them, when actually, they’re just taking their time.

It’s important to be aware of your triggers so that you can understand how they may influence your feelings in different situations. Ask yourself; should I be this worried about this situation or am I overthinking because one of my triggers is involved? To understand more about triggers and how to manage them, read this.

How to manage your anxiety

  1. Stop Googling symptoms

    When your child is unwell (or you're worried that they might be) it can be tempting to Google their symptoms, however, by doing this, you may scare yourself for no reason. There's a lot of misleading information on the internet and it's easy to stumble across the worst case scenario. Plus, the more that you research, the more focused that you are on the worry which means you're unable to move past it.

    If your child if unwell, it's best to speak to a doctor as they will consider a number of factors before making a diagnosis, unlike professor Google. However, be wary of falling into a negative cycle of reassurance-seeking, which can feed your anxiety further. You can read more about the impact of self-diagnosis and accessing health information online here.
  2. Get support from other parents

    It can be helpful to reach out to other parents and discuss your fears - maybe they've been through something similar and have some good advice for how they handled it. Just be mindful not to fall into a comparison mindset as every child moves at a different pace. There are also parent groups and forums online that may be useful, such as Mumsnet and Family Lives. For tips on coping with life as a new parent, read this.
  3. Take time to de-stress

    Making time to unwind is always important, but it's essential when you're feeling particularly stressed or anxious. Give yourself permission to relax and do whatever you feel like doing. You might catch up on your favourite show, do some baking or go for a walk. Breathing exercises and progressive muscle relaxation can also help you to calm down when you're feeling particularly overwhelmed. We've included some examples in this blog.
  4. Consider talking therapy

    Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a form of talking therapy which is used to treat a range of mental health conditions, including health anxiety. CBT encourages you to challenge negative thought patterns and teaches you coping strategies so that you can manage your anxiety going forward. At ieso, we offer online CBT with skilled therapists and our service is free for many NHS patients. Visit our website for more information and to find out if you’re eligible.
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This blog has been written by a member of the clinical team at ieso.
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