Hypochondria

Hypochondria is a health anxiety disorder. It is often chronic. A person with hypochondria is often very anxious about their health. A hypochondriac fears that a real or imagined minor physical symptom is a sign of serious illness. Even when several doctors assure them otherwise, a hypochondriac is convinced that they have a serious disease. Psychiatric counseling and medications can relieve some, if not all, of the anxiety and suffering. Left untreated, hypochondria can be debilitating and affect daily function.

  • Causes

    It is often difficult to identify a specific cause for hypochondria.

  • Definition

    Hypochondria is a health anxiety disorder. It is often chronic. A person with hypochondria is often very anxious about their health. A hypochondriac fears that a real or imagined minor physical symptom is a sign of serious illness. Even when several doctors assure them otherwise, a hypochondriac is convinced that they have a serious disease. Psychiatric counseling and medications can relieve some, if not all, of the anxiety and suffering. Left untreated, hypochondria can be debilitating and affect daily function.

  • Diagnosis

    The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. If the exam shows no disease, your doctor may begin to suspect hypochondria. If further testing also fails to uncover a known medical condition, your doctor may diagnosis you with hypochondria if:

    • Your fear of illness lasts for at least six months and does not improve with reassurance and negative testing
    • No other psychological disorder is causing your fear

  • Prevention

    There are no guidelines to prevent hypochondria because the cause is not known.

  • Risk Factors

    Factors that may increase your risk for getting hypochondria include:

    • Family history of hypochondria
    • Having a serious childhood illness
    • Psychiatric disorders such as depression, anxiety, or personality disorder
    • Physical, sexual, or emotional abuse in childhood
    • Observing violence in childhood
    • Stressful experience with your own or a loved one's illness
    • History of personal traumatic experience
    Brain—Psychological Organ
    Brain Man Face
    Chemical imbalances and traumatic life experiences may contribute to the development of hypochondria.
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  • Symptoms

    Symptoms include:

    • Chronic fear of serious illness
    • Chronic fear that minor symptoms are signs of a serious illness
    • Many physical complaints that often change over time
    • The disorder:

      • Lasts at least six months
      • Causes major distress
      • Interferes with social life or work
    You may:
    • Check yourself frequently
    • Make many doctor visits, sometimes in the same day
    • Seek repeated tests for the same symptoms
    • Repeatedly research information about specific illnesses and their symptom
    • Change healthcare providers frequently
    • Try multiple herbal remedies or other alternative treatments

  • Treatment