27 Jun 2021 Nutrition Evidence Alert – June 2021 – Health Anxiety
Welcome to the June edition of the Nutrition Evidence Alert.
As we slowly make our way out of widespread restrictions back to a renewed sense of normal, what has a year of lockdowns left us with? A persistent lack of certainty, largely towards our health and wellbeing, has lead to a variety of behavioural and emotional responses, in particular, an increase in the prevalence of health anxiety (Jungmann & Witthöft, 2020).
Health anxiety is a condition which causes individual’s excessive worry that they are unwell, or that they will become unwell. It can involve frequent body checking, asking others for reassurance, worrying that diagnostic tests are not accurate and obsessively searching for answers relating to symptoms. Yet, in many cases, the individual attributes health anxiety related symptoms, as something related to an undiagnosed condition, leading to a never ending cycle of concern.
Following the events of the last year, there has been an increase in the presence of ‘cyberchondria’, anxiety towards someone’s health, created or exacerbated by using the internet to search for medical information (Jungmann & Witthöft, 2020). With the increase in reliance on social media and the internet over the last year, professionals have needed to find ways to manage the rise in subsequent health anxiety in their clients, so understanding it is key.
This increase in health-related anxiety, combined with life in lockdown and its associated restrictions, has seen people responding and managing in different ways, particularly with their food related behaviours. A combination of changes to individual’s eating styles, coping strategies and risk of food insecurity, has resulted in some managing their health and wellbeing more effectively than others. This month’s research articles demonstrate the food related responses individual’s have had, both during and after lockdown, and provide examples of how this has been influenced by health anxiety.
From our Guest Editor: Laura Falconer
These are Laura’s top picks of research:
Coping behaviors associated with decreased anxiety and depressive symptoms during the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown in Journal of affective disorders. 2020
Comparing eating behaviours, and symptoms of depression and anxiety between Spain and Greece during the COVID-19 outbreak: Cross-sectional analysis of two different confinement strategies. in European eating disorders review : the journal of the Eating Disorders Association. 2020
Eating disorder pathology and compulsive exercise during the COVID-19 public health emergency: Examining risk associated with COVID-19 anxiety and intolerance of uncertainty. in The International journal of eating disorders. 2020
Recommended Blog and Podcast this month
Podcast: Panic Attacks: Biology or Psychology. In conversation with Dr Mark Hyman and Dr George Papaicolaou
Blog: Relaxation techniques: Breath control helps quell errant stress response from Harvard Health Publishing
BANT is spearheading the ‘Food for your Health’ campaign to raise awareness of the benefits of personalised nutrition and lifestyle medicine and to educate the public on making healthy food choices to prevent and manage metabolic conditions, including those associated with overweight and obesity. Click through to our campaign page for free resources https://bant.org.uk/food-for-your-health/