Hypochondriasis, or hypochondria, is defined as an overwhelming fear of having a serious disease, despite the lack of medical evidence that the illness is present. People with hypochondriasis misinterpret normal bodily sensations as signs of serious illness and are consumed with distress over it.
The preoccupation causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social and/or occupational situations. For diagnosis, the duration of the disturbance must be at least 6 months. Approximately 75% to 85% of people who have hypochondriasis also have anxiety, depression, or another mental health disorder.
• Preoccupation with a serious illness for at least 6 months.
• Misinterpreting normal body symptoms as signs of illness.
• Persistent fear of illness despite reassurance from doctors.
• Having this preoccupation gets in the way of daily functioning, eg difficulty maintaining mobility, a job or a relationship.
• People with hypochondriasis should visit a doctor regularly, preferably someone who will take the patient’s physical symptoms seriously, instead of being dismissive. When medical tests show no disease present, the doctor needs to re-inforce this fact gently and persistently.
• People with hypochondriasis benefit from psychotherapy. Studies show that group therapy, behavior modification, and cognitive therapy work well.
Research indicates that mindfulness based cognitive therapy can help patients with health-related anxiety.
• Moreover, as people with hypochondriasis sometimes have other underlying mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression, treatment of these conditions is important in addressing symptoms of hypochondriasis.
Bressert, S. (2013). Hypochondriasis Symptoms. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 18, 2016.
Hypochondriasis. (2014). University of Maryland Medical Center.