Helping patients to cope with anxiety about their health has become a nationally recognised success story for two King’s Mill nurses.
General nurses Yvonne Lisseman-Stones and Sharon McAllister have achieved results twice as good as specialised psychiatrists around the country for their treatment of health anxiety.
The pair have won a special award for their work with 70 patients at the hospital with the problem known as cyberchondria.
Yvonne explained how people with cyberchondria worry too much about their health and fear they have diseases that no one else can recognise.
They consult the Internet frequently and suspect they have diseases that no one else has yet identified.
They attend hospital repeatedly and have tests which are shown to be normal, but as they still worry they continue to consult their GPs.
Accepting her award from Professor Peter Tyrer, from Imperial College in London, Yvonne said: “Health anxiety is more common than people think; it can manifest in, for example, people with heart problems who have a fear of exerting themselves – even to the point of refusing to do daily activities such as shopping, or a cancer patient in remission who fears every ache and pain is the cancer coming back.
“These people will present to their GP with a number of aches and pains, but not mention their worries as they don’t recognise this as health anxiety.
The pains are very real but in many cases this will be the fear making them extremely anxious, hence making them feel very ill.”
The two nurses trained in a form of cognitive behavioural therapy that helps patients work through their problems and deal with them in a rational way.
A local patient named by the hospital as Mary, said she had benefited greatly from the therapy. She said: “I think the trigger for my health anxiety was my father passing away when I was young.
“I always felt I had something wrong with me as I was always going to the doctors for something, but it wasn’t until late in life when it dawned on me I probably had health anxiety. I was referred for cognitive behavioural therapy by my GP. I was sceptical at first, but now I feel like a new person.”