In dealing with health anxiety, the key fact to keep in mind is that there is no certainty.  If you tend to worry about your health, slipping from one concern to the next, often alarmed about physical sensations or perceived changes in your body, you probably tend to seek reassurance that you are OK.

The reassurance works for a short while; you go to the doctor, she says you don’t have the condition you fear.  Or you go online and are temporarily relieved when your perceived symptoms are not a perfect match for the disease you think you might have.

But the calm doesn’t last.  After all, the doctor said to call if the sensations persist, so you are keeping an eye on it and they do seem to be there still, if ever so mildly.  Or that particular symptom has cleared up, but before long you find that a new one has caught your attention.

So let’s push this reassurance-seeking approach to the limit.  Let’s say that you get a full body scan, you meet with a team of the world’s top doctors, and it is determined that you do not have any diseases or health conditions.  Perfect!  You’re set, right?

Of course not.  The problem is that when it comes to the body, as when it comes all matters related to the future, uncertainty rules.

The perfect medical work-up still has flaws; maybe the scan missed something?  And even if it didn’t, a scan only provides a snapshot of that moment.  Theoretically it’s possible that even as you left the building where you had the scan, some new medical problem was taking hold in your body!

YIKES!  Uncertainty rules.  That is part of the human condition, but for some people, that fact creates a lot of discomfort and anxiety.

So if you are not going to stay on the reassurance-seeking treadmill, and if you want a more effective way to reduce your suffering, what are you going to do?

I recommend that you manage the discomfort about the uncertainty, not the uncertainty itself.  What that means is that, rather than trying to quell anxiety by seeking certainty on each physical sensation or medical concern, you work to increase your tolerance for the discomfort that uncertainty inevitably brings.

The goal is to reduce your tendency to engage every worry that crops up, and hopefully feel steadier day to day.  This requires practicing some new skills, but for now, start by reminding yourself that, just by living, you do tolerate enormous uncertainty every day, so you already possess the skill, it just has to be strengthened and redirected.  There’s hope!