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Overview

Hypochondriasis means Illness Anxiety disorder (IAD). People who are diagnosed with this disorder believe that they are suffering from some serious or life threatening illness despite having mild or no symptoms. Though Hypochondriasis patients’ concerns are very real to them, but it is only fear that involves mental symptoms of constant self-examination and self-diagnosis.

Understanding of the ailment

In Hypochondriasis, even if patients go to doctors, and no illnesses are found, they would not feel assured and their obsessive worry would continue.

Hypochondriasis patients can also trigger worries in people who do have a physical illness by saying that they have some serious issue. Hypochondriasis or IAD is not about the presence or absence of illness, but it is a psychological reaction. It is the obsession with the idea of having an illness.

Symptoms

Symptoms of Hypochondriasis are as under:

  • Excessive worries of having or getting a serious illness
  • Physical symptoms either absent or mild still person’s concern is out of proportion.
  • High level of anxiety and alarm over personal health status
  • Excessive health related behaviors (e.g. repeatedly checking body for signs of illness)
  • Fear of illness is present for at least six months (but the specific disease that is concerned may change over a period of time)

Who is at risk?

Hypochondriasis is a chronic (long-lasting) condition that can begin at any time of life, although it is most common between ages 40 and 60.

Family studies of Hypochondriasis do not show a genetic transmission of the disorder.

Sometime even happy or healthy individuals fall prey to Hypochondriasis. These individual believe they are suffering from the same disease that caused their parent’s death, sometimes causing panic attacks with corresponding symptoms.

Causes

  • Major life stress.
  • A severe symptom believed to threaten one’s health (e.g. chest pain, memory issues)
  • History of child abuse (physical, sexual, emotional) or neglect.
  • History of childhood illness.
  • Having another mental disorder (e.g. major depression, anxiety)

Complications:

  • Diagnosis of Hypochondriasis is very difficult because people with disorder are convinced that their symptoms are caused by medical illness
  • When symptoms appear, the doctor will begin his or her evaluation with a complete medical history and patient will have to be referred to a psychiatrist or psychologist for examination of patients’ attitude and behavior
  • Long term treatment with medication for the patients with Hypochondriasis could cause comorbid disorders, and these disorders can initiate and or increase Hypochondrial symptoms
  • Sustained anxiety could trigger psychosomatic disorders such as acidity, irritable bowel syndrome and even peptic or duodenal ulcers

Treatment

In absence of organic disease reassurance, complete psychological evaluation and appropriate medications like antidepressant drugs may be helpful with medical practioners’ advice. Unnecessary interventions must also be avoided.

 

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