Hypochondria - A real imaginary “Health Anxiety”

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Hypochondria also referred as “Health Anxiety” or “Illness Anxiety” is an obsession or irrational fear of having a serious medical condition. It is a debilitating psychological disorder that can affect an individual’s well- being and relationships. A person with hypochondriasis exhibits the characteristics of OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) and is preoccupied with his own physical health. Estimations show that 10% of the population has clinically significant hypochondria. In addition, due to hypochondriacal fear 15% of all visit to primary care physicians.

Patients with hypochondriasis often misinterpret physical symptoms as a sign of serious disease or other medical conditions. They recurrently believe that they suffer from a serious medical condition in spite of the doctor’s reassurance. Some level of preoccupation with disease is common in 10-20% of healthy people and 45% of those who have no major psychiatric disorder. Health Anxiety varies widely from person to person. Some constantly seek information and reassurance while some tend to have avoidant behavior. It can be recovered if identified at an early stage.

Listed below are some signs to watch out if you believe you are affected by health anxiety.

  1. History of visiting a number of doctor’s for medical checkups including the simple ones like pulse, temperature or blood pressure. Furthermore, finding a doctor who can agree with you on your serious imaginary illnesses.
  2. You constantly think that you are affected by some health problem. Also, overly concerned about a specific organ or a body system, such as the heart or digestive system.
  3. Even a doctor’s reassurance might not comfort you and you might choose to believe that the doctor is wrong or has made a mistake.
  4. Talking about the signs of suspected illnesses all the time with people, regardless of time and situation. People around you are frustrated hearing you out on your non-existent ailments every time.
  5. Anxiety attacks are a common occurrence in your life. You constantly fear that an impending life threatening disease is going to affect you. This concern about your non-existent ailments might have also cut off your work, family and social life by a significant margin.
  6. Imagining that you have a disease after reading or hearing about it. In some cases, refusing to consult a doctor for fear of getting the bad news that you have a serious illness.

“The onset of this disorder is early adulthood, although it can surface at any point in time. Stick with one doctor, forget about self-checks, be social and share the concern with similar people. In addition, regular exercising and spending much time with family and friends will also be helpful.”

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