If you tend to Google your symptoms every time you feel something new and try to diagnose your condition, you may probably have a condition termed hypochondriasis.
A hypochondriac is a person who constantly “Lives with the fear that they have a serious, but undiagnosed medical condition, even though diagnostic tests show there is nothing wrong with them.”
Understanding the Mind of a Hypochondriac
One of the most distinct characteristics of a hypochondriac is the severe anxiety they feel at the onset of simple symptoms like a sneeze or a headache. In their minds, the headache is the first step to something big, like a tumor in their brain or a similar serious condition.
While the descriptions of a hypochondriac may amuse the rest of us, we need to be in their shoes to actually understand what goes on in their heads. Research shows that, annually, nearly 5 percent of outpatient care appointments are linked to hypochondria and over 200,000 individuals are diagnosed with hypochondriasis or illness anxiety disorder every year.
Causes and Symptoms of Hypochondriasis
Though the true reason for the condition isn’t known, studies show that hypochondria mostly develops in early adulthood and can be the result of having experienced a chronic illness or seeing a loved one go through it. Losing a loved one to a severe illness may also trigger hypochondria.
Experts believe that these factors may cause the condition:
- Being in constant connection with a hypochondriatic family member
- Serious illness as a child
- Fear that a past serious illness may recur
- Stressful life situations
- Conditions like obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and depression that can cause hypochondria
The symptoms associated with hypochondria can vary from person to person and depend a lot on their mental makeup. While the symptoms may be mild in someone who is mentally strong, a person prone to extreme anxiety can have severe symptoms.
The main symptoms of the condition are:
- Very frequent visits to the doctor
- Constant discussion about their own health
- Worrying about every single ache, pain, sneeze and rumble in the stomach
- Staying away from public places to avoid infections
- Excessive time spent on reviewing and researching their symptoms
- Self-examinations to check for any illnesses
- Missing doctor’s appointments in the fear of being diagnosed with an illness
- Disbelief of tests that show negative results for any condition
- Extra attention to a certain organ, body part or disease
- Fear that they are coming down with a disease just because others in the house or neighborhood have it
Treatment Strategies for Hypochondriacs
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is the most commonly prescribed strategy for dealing with hypochondria because it may help these individuals understand their specific triggers and teach them to cope with their symptoms effectively. It may also help an individual realize that the basis of their fears is nonexistent. Doctors may combine anti-depressants to support the therapy.
Hypochondriacs can help themselves too, with these self-help tips from experts:
- Staying away from alcohol and drugs that can induce more anxiety
- Having a set routine for doctor’s visits and understanding what is the reasonable time to wait between doing certain medical tests
- Shifting focus to hobbies or activities that can take your mind off health anxieties
- Avoiding online searches for explanations of your symptoms
- Incorporating stress relieving techniques like yoga, meditation and mindfulness techniques
Living with hypochondriasis can be traumatic, especially these days when information about diseases and symptoms is available at our fingertips. So, if you or someone you know may be struggling with hypochondriasis, it is recommended to meet with a therapist and go over your options to try and overcome your fear of falling gravely ill.
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Signs You May be a Hypochondriac. (2018, June 15). Retrieved from http://centerforanxietydisorders.com/hypochondriac-signs/