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Hypochondria (Health Anxiety): Symptoms, Causes and Treatments

Hypochondria (or Health Anxiety, or Illness Anxiety Disorder, or Hypochondriasis)

Do you have a fear of diseases?

Have you ever thought a simple headache to be brain tumor, or a slight stomach ache as an intestinal blockage?

Have people ever called you crazy because of your obsession with health and hygiene?

Are you gripped by a constant fear of being terminally ill?

Have you ever self-diagnosed yourself by checking the symptoms online?

Are you aware of symptoms of various diseases because you constantly look them up online?

Do you keep getting tests done (often by different doctors)?

Is no re-assurance enough to prove that you are not sick. You know that, but are never satisfied. Is that you?

If the answer to most of these questions is yes, you probably are a hypochondriac.

What is Hypochondria: The Symptoms

If you're someone who is constantly worried about their health and always convinced that they are sick, then you may be suffering from hypochondria.

Hypochondria (Health Anxiety) describes intense and constant worry about your health. And this worry causes much distress and harms one’s ability to function properly.

People suffering from Hypochondria (hypochondriac) strongly believe that they are suffering from serious illness outside of a professional opinion. It is often accompanied by OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder), stress and anxiety.

What if I have cancer?

What if this symptom leads to something deadly?

Is this a sign of heart disease?

People with Health Anxiety often associate symptoms like headaches, swollen lymph nodes, tiredness, etc. to serious illnesses by way of self-diagnosis. No matter how infinitely small the chance of having an actual serious illness is to that symptom, a hypochondriac will feel as if they are the exception. They will ask themselves questions like the ones on the right.

Mental Health Anxiety

Recent conceptualizations of health anxiety suggest that people can experience extreme, long-lasting (obsessive), distressing and disabling worry about mental health in similar ways to how people experience extreme worry about physical health. [ Ref.: A Preliminary Investigation into Worry about Mental Health ]

Hypochondria Causes

Finding an exact cause to Hypochondria is not straightforward because it really does vary from person to person. Its subjectivity can be pin-pointed to common causes though. Some of these include:
  • Stressful period in life such as the death or illness of a close family member or friend
  • Personality; some people worry more than others or are over-thinkers
  • Depression
  • A general Anxiety Disorder

Why is Hypochondria/Health Anxiety dangerous?

This question leads to the root of why hypochondria can be detrimental to overall mental health. It is what many consider a vicious circle in the sense that once you start to worry, you’ll be prompted into a state of depression or anxiety. It will make you self-check every square inch of your body until you find the slightest bump or abnormality. Once this abnormality is found, you’ll add it onto any other symptoms you may already have in your mind.

You’ll begin consulting your doctor or doctors on a regular basis until you reach the point where you no longer believe them because your research has told you otherwise. You do things like constantly searching up symptoms on Google until you read the words ‘cancer’ or ‘heart disease’.

How to Overcome Hypochondria

Hypochondria can be a debilitating condition that can take over your life and make you feel constantly anxious and stressed. Here are some tips to overcome hypochondria and take back control of your life:
  • See a doctor regularly. This can help to put your mind at ease and reassure you that you are healthy. If you have a symptom, don’t assume the worst. It’s unlikely that you have a serious illness. Instead, focus on the facts and see your doctor if you’re worried.
  • Distraction. When you start to feel anxious about your health, try to distract yourself with something else. This could be reading, listening to music, or spending time in nature or with friends and family.
  • Avoidance of health information. Try not to search or read or watch too much news about health or diseases. This can only make your anxiety worse.
  • Challenge your negative thoughts. If you find yourself worrying about your health, you could try to challenge your negative thoughts. Take a step back and challenge your thoughts. Are you really at risk for the health problem you are worried about? What is the evidence? Once you start to question your anxiety, you'll realize that much of it is irrational.
  • Connect with others. Talking to someone who understands what you're going through can be incredibly helpful. There are many online and offline support groups for people with health anxiety.
  • Make healthy lifestyle choices. Make sure to care for yourself both physically and emotionally. Eat healthy, exercise, and get enough sleep. Avoid alcohol and drugs, which can make anxiety worse.
  • Make time for things you enjoy. Don't let health anxiety take over your life. Make sure to schedule time for things you enjoy, like hobbies, spending time with family and friends, or going on walks. This will help you keep your mind off of your health anxiety and make sure you're still living a balanced life.
  • Seek professional help. If your anxiety is really affecting your life, then it may be time to seek professional help. A therapist can help you to understand and manage your anxiety.

Hypochondria Treatment

The goal of treatment for health anxiety is to improve the sufferers' symptoms and ability to function in daily life. Typically, treatment involves psychotherapy (cognitive behavioral therapy) and medications when required.

Different Anxiety Relaxation Techniques have a positive effect on the body and mind if you suffer from Hypochondria (Health Anxiety).

If you're struggling with health anxiety, know that you're not alone. Many people deal with health anxiety, and there are many people who understand and can help. Don't be afraid to reach out for support.

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