Jun 04

If everything goes well for Paul, he enjoys his life. But then there are the times when anxiety robs his sleep and even during the day he suffers from the fear of being seriously ill. A headache could be an indication of a brain tumor; swollen lymph nodes, diarrhea, or a birthmark could be a reference to cancer; the memory of a particular sexual adventure raises fear of having been infected with HIV.

Paul spends lots of time every day examining his body for suspicious signs and to gather information about possible symptoms. The Internet turns out to be a diabolical companion: vast amounts of information are openly available, but sometimes their reliability is doubtful, or certain contradictions turn up. Doctor visits also provide only temporary relief: couldn’t the doctor have been wrong or missed something?

Often people burdened by fears like Paul’s are intelligent, physically fit and live a very healthy lives. Their fears severely constrict the extent to which they can enjoy their lives. Short spells of relief are inevitably followed by the next phase of panic-like feelings of worry.

When suffering from such fears there is no need to be ashamed. This form of anxiety has causes that are not the affected persons’ fault and can be treated with strategies applied during psychotherapy or hypnotherapy – provided that there is a readiness to attend regular counselling sessions for a certain period. During the treatment new ways of dealing with these chronic concerns will be developed, relieving the heart from the heavy cloak of fear.

(This short article is part of a weekly series dealing with psychological expat problems and general mental health issues and was published in various newspapers and magazines in Thailand, 2010)