Hypochondria is a term that’s commonly thrown around, but it is actually an illness anxiety disorder (IAD). In order to be diagnosed with IAD, the fears and symptoms must persist for longer than six months despite a thorough medical evaluation and reassurance there are no medical issues present. This chronic anxiety-related disorder often presents similarly to obsessive-compulsive disorder. And, like other anxiety disorders, hypochondria has the potential to interfere with a person’s quality of life.
The extreme anxiety associated with hypochondria can manifest as bodily sensations — such as muscle twitching or fatigue — which, to a hypochondriac, are associated with a specific physical illness, despite the body being healthy. In this scenario, the disorder is not about the presence or absence of illness, but the psychological reaction to a specific form of anxiety.
Undiagnosed symptoms of these types of disorders often lead to inaccurate or exaggerated beliefs about medical symptoms, difficult encounters with medical professionals (frequent visits, unnecessary lab tests), and resistance to or noncompliance with diagnostic or treatment efforts.
What Are The Symptoms?
Some common symptoms of Hypochondria are:
Extreme worry over having or getting a serious illness.
Worry persisting despite appropriate medical evaluation and reassurance.
The duration of the disturbance lasting at least six months.
Physical symptoms are not present or if present, only mild. If another illness is present, or there is a risk for developing a physical illness, a hypochondriac’s concern is out of proportion.
High level of anxiety and alarm over personal health status.
Repetitive checking of the body for symptoms of an alleged medical condition.
Excessive health-related behaviors — repeatedly checking body temperature, researching symptoms and checking body for signs of illness — or abnormal avoidance — avoiding scheduled doctors’ appointments or the need to make them, and hospitals.
Multiple medical tests, often for the same alleged condition.
Fortunately, several treatment options are available for people with hypochondria and other forms of health anxiety. Like anxiety, Hypochondria is a psychological problem, even if legitimate physical symptoms exist. Because of this, psychotherapy in a number of forms — cognitive therapy, behavior therapy, or stress management — can be beneficial. If you believe you have Hypochondria, consider consulting a mental health professional to see if talk therapy can help