What is Hypochondria: Causes, Symptoms, Ways to Overcome Hypochondria

Health related anxiety or illness anxiety disorder is commonly identified as hypochondria. It is also known as illness anxiety disorder (IAD). Let us understand the causes and symptoms of hypochondria or health related anxiety. If you are wondering how to overcome health related anxiety or hypochondria, here are some effective solutions too.

What is Hypochondria?

What is Hypochondria?

Hypochondria or Health Related Anxiety is a disorder of excessive worry about being sick. Simply said, hypochondriacs experience chronic anxiety regarding their health and visit doctors frequently to get diagnosed. Besides, hypochondriacs, once get diagnosed by a doctor do not end the process, being panicked about their health, they visit more doctors frequently but still remain disgruntled. Patients suffering from hypochondria have serious concerns and anxiety about their well-being all the time. It is actually an inaccurate perception of the condition of body or mind despite the absence of an actual medical condition.

Summarily, hypochondria is a persistent fear or belief that one has a serious, undiagnosed medical illness. Severe hypochondria can interfere with a normal, healthy lifestyle. The severity of the disorder depends on age, a person’s tendency to worry, and how much stress they are facing in their daily life.

Causes of Hypochondria

Though the exact causes of hypochondria are not known but in a generalized form the main cause of the disorder is supposed to be a panic disorder. But, technically a person would be diagnosed with panic disorder may not be a hypochondriac. It is also understood from some psychological studies that oversensitivity of feelings, combined with serious panic attacks that imitate a terrible disease can make a person feel that there must be something wrong with their health. A series of repeated trauma or illnesses too can affect the way a person thinks and perceives their health condition.

There are certain potential factors that increase the risk of the disorder. These too can be the contributing causes of health related anxiety or hypochondria.

  • Major life stress
  • Passing through a serious illness particularly in childhood
  • A personal history of physical abuse
  • A personal history of sexual abuse
  • General anxiety disorder and panic disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Difficulty in expressing emotions
  • Major depression
  • Observing physical and sexual abuse especially in childhood
  • Increased stress with a greater exposure to information about a disease in the media
  • Google syndrome or Cyberchondria; means identifying themselves badly with some symptoms of diseases through search
  • Serious illnesses or painful deaths of relatives or friends
  • Overly protective parental care or by hypochondriac caregiver

Symptoms of Hypochondria or Health Related Anxiety

Symptoms of hypochondria mainly include excessive worry regarding one’s health. Health anxiety is a chronic condition and normal bodily functions as heart beats, sweating, bowel movements can seem like indications of a serious illness. Also minor abnormalities, such as a runny nose, slightly swollen lymph nodes, and a small sore, can feel like serious problems for hypochondriacs or a person suffering from illness anxiety disorder.

An unusual crushing fear of disease that continues for more than 5-6 months may be a sign of hypochondria or health anxiety disorder. It is normal that people occasionally search on internet for some symptoms or health problems but end in developing fear about their health. But hypochondriacs search it much obsessively.

Other symptom of hypochondria also includes excessive focus on one organ like lungs or bowels or a particular disease like heart problem or cancer. This might make them feel they are silently suffering from some dreaded disease related to these organs or conditions.

Here are Some Commonly Found Symptoms of Hypochondria or Health Related Anxiety:

  • Obsessed or preoccupied with the idea of getting a serious disease or health condition
  • Much worried about minor symptoms or body sensations
  • Over alert or much attentive towards the health status
  • Has very little or almost no comfort from negative test results
  • Is not satisfied with doctor’s reassurance of healthiness
  • Much worried about developing a medical condition because it runs into the family. Get much distressed and assumes a possible illness can affect hard on his health function
  • Much attentive about blood pressure, heartbeat; constant examinations of body to detect something unusual
  • Frequently check their health condition and get tested fearing false signs of illness
  • Does not depend on the test result and get trapped in a vicious circle of repetitive tests from different diagnostic center
  • Discusses about their health and possible illnesses with the people around excessively
  • Searches Internet for causes of symptoms or possible illnesses routinely
  • Irregular and inattentive at work or school due to anxiety over possible illnesses
  • Avoids medical care fearing of being diagnosed with a serious illness
  • Avoids people, places or activities for fear of health risks

How to Overcome Hypochondria or Health Related Anxiety?

Psychotherapy and medication is considered to be the most effective way to overcome hypochondria or health related anxiety. Reducing stress and anxiety can help overcome the disorder in most cases. People who are aware, understanding and can be consoled should get better results. But, patients suffering from personality disorder may find it harder to recover. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) can be helpful in such cases to overcome hypochondria.

Some of the Effective Ways to Overcome Hypochondria Include:

Counseling and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy:

  • Most of the time if the condition is not so severe, counseling like simply discussing about the fear of illness may help.
  • But, in most of the cases, psychological counseling is considered the first step to overcome hypochondria or health related anxiety.
  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is one of the most effective forms of therapy for hypochondria or health related anxiety. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) expert aims to assist the patient to recognize and reduce behaviors associated with hypochondria most efficiently.

Support Groups

Let the patient join into a group of other patients also suffering from hypochondria to discuss, exchange experiences and determine the strategies to manage the disorder. Sharing of views can help to a great extent and is an effective way to overcome hypochondria or health related anxiety.

Exposure Therapy

  • Sometimes hypochondriac patients are treated with counseling with the method of exposure therapy, in which fears are directly confronted in a safe environment.
  • By such counseling patients start learning the skills to cope with their uncomfortable sensations and anxiety.
  • This therapy also teaches the patient how to relax and release anxiety. This is a type of stress management, which works positively to overcome hypochondria or health related anxiety.

Medication

  • Patients suffering from hypochondria or health related anxiety may be treated by experienced psychiatrists only with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), such as fluoxetine and paroxetine.
  • It has been observed that antidepressant and anti-anxiety medication may help release irrational concerns. Use of such medicines is an effective way to overcome hypochondria but they should be used only if required and as advised.

Strict Prohibition of Stimulants

  • Avoid or stop the consumption of alcohol, coffee and tobacco is helpful for hypochondriacs.
  • Prohibiting non prescribed stimulant drugs is mandatory to treat the disorder satisfactorily.

Exercise

Being active, involving more physical and mental activities certainly helps to release stress and make hypochondriacs feel good as well. Exercises naturally help to reduce stress and balances the energy. This is one of the safest and natural ways to overcome hypochondria or health related anxiety.

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