It’s always good to take care of ourselves, think about our medical condition and get our annual medical check-up or visit the doctor even if we have merely a cold. However, it is hard to know where exactly is the line between maintaing good health and constantly worrying about our wellbeing. This fine line is crossed when anxiety or an exagerated concern led us to suffer in silence the nightmare of hypochondria.
What is Hypochondria?
Hypochondria, also known as illness anxiety disorder or hypochondriasis, is a debilitating condition, defined as an extreme fear (phobia) of being physically ill. The person suffering from hypochondria is characterized by feeling anxious and extremely preoccupied about his health. Any minor abnormality or even normal body functions cause cause strong feelings in the hypochondriac, as his body and mind amplify the signals received, causing hyper-vigilance and negative reactions to the imaginary ailment. Around 10% of all medical visits are related to this illness. In addition it has been suggested by research than 1 to 6% of the US population is suffering from it.
It’s not entirely clear what causes hypochondriasis, but as in many mental conditions some triggers may boost it appearance:
- A history of physical, emotional or sexual abuse,
- Life experiences, for example have seen or suffered from illness in childhood,
- Personality traits & personality type,
- Recent stressful event such as the death of a loved one,
- Have been diagnosed with another mental disorder,
- Lack of ability of expressing emotions properly.
Symptoms of Hypochondria:
Symptoms of hypochondria may vary, while some hypochondriacs will undoubtedly believe they are ill and look for thousand medical opinions; others will live secretly in depression and avoid any kind of contact with doctors, as they fear having a serious, chronic or untreatable condition. The most common symptoms are:
- Feeling ill no matter what doctors and medical evaluations guarantee, and doubt of the doctors’ diagnosis.
- Continuous misinterpretation and involuntary exaggeration of corporal symptoms.
- Long-term & excessive fear of having an untreatable disease, which leads to anxiety, self-examination and diagnosis.
- Major distress and inability to function properly, in both daily and social activities due the belief of suffering from an illness.
- Depression and belief there are neither hope or treatment available.
- The duration of the symptoms have been persistent per is at least 6 months.
How to help a hypochondriac?
- Be caring and understanding about the situation.
- Keep in mind that the person is sick, not faking it.
- Offer encouragement and support.
- Help your loved one find help with a mental health practitioner.
If you think you or one of your loved ones may be suffering this disease, don’t be alarmed and remember the individual suffering must be willing to understand the possibility that his worries are based on his emotions rather than body symptoms.
It is also important for the person to recognize the situation and look for a mental health professional who will be willing to help recover with therapy and/or medications. This process must be voluntary, as it’s the first step for a positive change and improvement of the condition!
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