My son is eleven and half years old. Almost six months ago he started to show worries about different parts of his body. One day he thinks something is wrong with his eyes and asks for my assurance that nothing bad will happen to him. The next day he thinks something is wrong with his leg. Fortunately, he feels better each time after I promise him he is healthy and nothing bad will happen to him.
About two months ago he told me he had bad thoughts – by this he means that his mind is talking to him (he is not hearing voices). Then he told me that his mind was telling him there is something wrong with his body and he is going to be blind, and so on. He also says that his mind is telling him bad things will happen to his family, for example his mind told him that I was going to have a car crash.
I have recently noticed that he is talking back to his mind by saying “NO” or “STOP” and his face shows extreme suffering. It is necessary to mention that his personal and social interaction has not been affected by these thoughts. He is doing very well at school; it is only him that suffers from the situation. And I have also noticed that these thoughts are worse when he is sad or bored.
Please let me know if these symptoms could be an early presentation of more serious mental issues and how I can help him. He now has these thoughts around ten times a day and sometimes worse at night.
It is likely that your son has health anxiety. Given his social abilities and lack of other symptoms, it is possible, but not likely, that this is the first symptom of a more serious mental health problem.
Health anxiety is excessive, unrealistic worrying about some aspect of health. It affects about 3-10% of the population and can be quite debilitating.
The fact that your son is talking to you about this problem is very positive.
Your son’s arguing with his thoughts is actually a very good way of dealing with his health anxieties. He has begun to get control of these thoughts. You may be able to help him argue even more effectively about these worries.
He should also try to reduce anything he is avoiding because of his health anxiety.
An excellent self help book on this topic, written by a world expert on the area, is It’s Not All in Your Head: How Worrying About Your Health Could be Making You Sick – and What You Can Do About It by G.J.G. Asmundson & S. Taylor