Health anxiety is defined in the quote below. A person suffering from it may mistakenly believe certain fluctuations in bodily sensations to be dangerous or a sign of impending critical illness, and this may cause them to become anxious. When they become anxious, they may get symptoms of anxiety (like rapid heart rate and chest discomfort) which may lead to a positive feedback loop, resulting in a panic attack, where they may think that they have a heart attack and go to the ER. That's the worst case. The best case is frequent unnecessary visits to the doctor.
Based on Buddhist techniques, what could a health anxiety sufferer do to help himself or herself?
On the other hand, if he really did have some critical illness, but convinces himself that it's not really the case, then it's not good for his health. So, how could Buddhist techniques help him find the balance?
According to this article on health anxiety:
The False Alarm
Health anxiety is the misinterpretation of normal bodily sensations as dangerous. Healthy bodies produce all sorts of physical symptoms that might be uncomfortable, painful, unexpected, and otherwise unwanted — but not dangerous. Picture a car with an alarm system. It’s useful if your car alarm goes off when a criminal is breaking in, but it’s problematic if it goes off every time someone walks by. Your car alarm would be misinterpreting innocent pedestrians as dangerous criminals.
Normal physical symptoms that often produce fear and worry include changes in visual acuity, heart rate and blood pressure, saliva levels, depth of breathing, balance, and muscle tone, to name a few. These are normal and harmless. But when a person misinterprets them as symptoms of some terrible disease, it creates undue worry. This explains why medical tests come out negative: The physical sensations are real, but they are not symptoms of a disease.
Misinterpretation may be due to assumptions about health and illness, such as, “My cousin died of cancer, so it’s only a matter of time for me.” Or, “Viruses spread quickly. Since people in Africa are dying of Ebola, it could easily spread to the United States.” People with health anxiety might hold rigid definitions of good health, perhaps believing that any discomfort means bad health.
If they hear a news story about a few cases of a serious virus, people with health anxiety might start scanning their own bodies for symptoms of the virus. Looking for symptoms makes you notice subtle sensations that you might otherwise ignore. With uncertainty, the imagination has room to create stories. And that’s when your body’s alarm sounds off as you imagine the worst.
It Gets Tricky
Symptoms of anxiety produce very real physical symptoms: Dizziness, stomachaches, rapid heartbeat, tingling in the hands and feet, muscle tension, jitteriness, chest pressure, and the list goes on. These symptoms add fuel to the fire. Now you have real evidence that something is seriously wrong. Or do you? Perhaps it’s anxiety. So how do you know if these symptoms are serious? You go to the doctor… and then to a therapist.
Health anxiety persists despite reassurance from the doctor. Seeking reassurance from doctors, insisting on repeated medical tests, and visits to the ER and urgent care are common if you have health anxiety. This habit leads you to rely on such reassurance to obtain relief from health worries. A vicious cycle develops of noticing a sensation or learning of an illness in the world, misinterpreting it as threatening, then becoming anxious, and finally going to the doctor for reassurance. Reassurance from the doctor reduces the anxiety and brings relief temporarily. Soon the cycle starts again.