Advanced psychotherapist and clinical hypnotherapist CLAIRE GASKIN sees clients in Essex and in London’s Harley Street. She is now bringing her expertise to the problems of our readers as our agony aunt. If you have a problem you’d like Claire’s advice with, email For more details on Claire’s work, visit

Dear Claire,

I am in my late 20s and have never had a serious health issue, but I am forever panicking about getting dangerously ill.

Any time I get a cough, a sore throat or just feel a bit off I start obsessing about my condition and whether I am developing something fatal. I trawl the internet researching my symptoms – I can’t help myself – and, of course, I then convince myself I’ve got all manner of diseases.

When I start to feel better I feel very foolish and promise myself I will never think like that again, but then the next slight cold comes and I’m fretting again.

It is beginning to affect my life. I avoid going out to crowded events because of the possibility of germs being spread and stay away from any strenuous exercise because I feel it will weaken me and make me susceptible to infection.

What can I do to break this cycle?

Claire says,

Hypochondriasis is an anxiety disorder, also known as Health Anxiety, and is a condition which can become all-consuming.

The panicking and subsequent search for how you might prevent something potentially fatal is a basic survival instinct activated in your reptilian brain, or what you may prefer to think of as your subconscious mind.

Even though you know there is nothing seriously wrong, the part of your brain responsible for your survival has no logic or reasoning. It simply reacts automatically to any perceived danger.

The problem is that your brain is stuck in a loop which believes the worst will happen with any ailment or exposure. Although it’s difficult to consciously override your emotional responses it is possible to break the neurological cycle.

Practising mindfulness and learning breathing techniques can help to reduce panic symptoms but regular readers will know I like to use BrainWorking Recursive Therapy to help resolve anxiety.

In fact, a recent client who developed Health Anxiety after having a panic attack on a long distance flight overcame it with a single session of BWRT. You can read more by searching for ’anxiety’ in the case studies section here:

To find a practitioner in your area visit: