Definition

What is hypochondria?

Hypochondria, also known as illness anxiety disorder, sometimes called health anxiety, is worrying excessively that you are or may become seriously ill though you may have no physical symptoms. Or you may believe that normal body sensations or minor symptoms are signs of severe illness, even though a thorough medical exam doesn’t reveal a serious medical condition.

If you have a medical condition or you’re at high risk of developing one, you become consumed with worry. You may have excessive anxiety that a body sensation associated with a known illness signals a much greater threat than actually exists. This excessive anxiety, rather than the physical symptom itself, results in severe distress that can be disabling.

Illness anxiety disorder is a long-term condition that can fluctuate in severity. It may increase with age or during times of stress. But psychological counseling (psychotherapy) and sometimes medication can help ease your worries. 

How common is hypochondria?

Hypochondriasis can occur at any age but peaks in adolescence and during middle age. Men and women appear to be affected equally.

However, it can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Symptoms

What are the symptoms of hypochondria?

The common symptoms of hypochondria are:

  • Being preoccupied with having or getting a serious disease or health condition
  • Worrying that minor symptoms or body sensations mean you have a serious illness
  • Being easily alarmed about your health status
  • Finding little or no reassurance from negative test results or a doctor’s reassurance that you’re healthy
  • Worrying excessively about a specific medical condition or your risk of developing a medical condition because it runs in your family
  • Having so much distress about possible illnesses that it’s hard for you to function
  • Repeatedly checking your body for signs of illness
  • Frequently making medical appointments for reassurance — or, avoiding medical care for fear of being diagnosed with a serious illness
  • Avoiding people, places or activities for fear of health risks
  • Constantly talking about your health and possible illnesses
  • Frequently searching the Internet for causes of symptoms or possible illnesses
  • There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consulting with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.

Causes

What causes hypochondria?

There are 3 primary causes can engender hypochondria:

Beliefs

You don’t understand the meaning of body sensations or you have a poor understanding of diseases, or both. This could lead you to think that all body sensations are serious, so you search for evidence to confirm that you have a serious disease.

Family

You may be more likely to have health anxiety if you had parents who worried too much about their own health or your health.

Past experience

You may have had experience with serious illness in childhood, so physical sensations are frightening to you.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for hypochondria?

There are many risk factors for hypochondria, such as:

  • A time of major life stress
  • Threat of a serious illness that turns out not to be serious
  • History of abuse as a child
  • A serious childhood illness or a parent with a serious illness
  • A personality that includes being a worrier
  • Excessive health-related Internet use

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is hypochondria diagnosed?

If your doctor suspects you may experience hypochondria, he or she may perform a physical examination. And then your doctor will:

  • Conduct a psychological evaluation to talk about your symptoms, stressful situations, family history, fears or concerns, relationship problems, and other issues affecting your life
  • Have you fill out a psychological self-assessment or questionnaire
  • Ask you about alcohol, drug or other substance use

How is hypochondria treated?

Some common treatment options may be recommended by your doctor include:

Psychotherapy

Because physical sensations can be related to psychological distress and health anxiety, psychotherapy — also called talk therapy — can be effective for illness anxiety disorder. A type of psychotherapy called cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can be effective in learning skills to manage illness anxiety disorder

Other therapies such as behavioral stress management and exposure therapy also may be helpful.

Medications

Antidepressants, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), may help treat illness anxiety disorder. Medications to treat mood or anxiety disorders, if present, also may help.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage hypochondria?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with hypochondria:

  • Work with your doctor or mental health provider to determine a regular schedule for visits to discuss your concerns and build a trusting relationship.
  • Practice stress management and relaxation techniques.
  • Get physically active.
  • Participate in activities
  • Avoid alcohol and recreational drugs.
  • Avoid searching the Internet for possible diseases

The vast amount of health information that may or may not be related to your situation can cause confusion and anxiety. If you have symptoms that concern you, talk to your doctor at your next scheduled appointment.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

Review Date: August 22, 2017 | Last Modified: August 22, 2017

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