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Are you one of those people who are worried about having a random illness even if you’re fit and healthy? If yes, then you might have hypochondria also commonly known as health anxiety or illness anxiety disorder.

Health anxiety or hypochondria is a consuming and irrational worry which causes people to believe they have a serious health or medical issue. This irrational worry causes people to believe in phantom symptoms of an illness.

If you can relate to this fear, then you may experience severe anxiety symptoms such as muscle tension, fatigue, and more that can be associated with a specific illness. While hypochondria isn’t life-threatening, it can still cause you to live in severe distress that can interfere with your daily life.

When you believe that you’re sick or have an illness, then your body signals you about the illness – which is normal – however, when you have health anxiety or illness anxiety disorder, you constantly believe that you have at least a minor symptom of a serious health disorder.

Let’s explore what is health anxiety, its symptoms, what causes it, and how you can overcome health anxiety in this article.

What is Health Anxiety or Illness Anxiety Disorder?

Health anxiety is an obsession-like worry or fear of having a serious medical disorder. Officially, illness anxiety disorder was referred to as hypochondriasis, a long-term condition that varies in severity depending on the situation.

Health anxiety might lead you to still be worried about your health even after reassurance from a doctor. This constant belief can cause severe distress and interference in your daily routine, life, and relationships.

While it’s OK and normal to be concerned about your health in general, health anxiety makes you believe that you always have one or more symptoms of a serious disorder or illness. Ultimately, the worry may eventually turn to disability and harm your mental health more.

Symptoms Of Illness Anxiety Disorder

Symptoms of illness anxiety disorder can include both, physical and behavioral symptoms. Here are some common symptoms of illness anxiety disorder that you should be aware of;

Constantly worrying about your health

Often checking your body for signs of illness

Continually seeking reassurance from your doctor

Worrying about your test even if they are normal

Obsessively looking for health information on the internet

Avoid talking about serious illnesses like cancer, AIDS, etc

Projecting phantom symptoms of illness into daily life

Causes Of Health Anxiety or Hypochondria

Many experts have researched but have been unable to find the exact cause of Hypochondria. Based on studies, some of the factors that may cause health anxiety may be as follows:

Poor understanding of the body’s distress

Family members’ constant worry about an individual’s health

History of a serious illness

Possibility of a serious illness

Abuse in childhood

Having a family member with a serious illness

Health anxiety develops in early adulthood and can intensify with age. Illness anxiety disorder occurs during early and middle adulthood and if left unaddressed, can worsen with age. Some people may even develop memory issues.

How is Hypochondria Diagnosed?

While illness anxiety disorder is no longer recognized as an official diagnosis, this condition can still be diagnosed. You can be diagnosed with hypochondria if you;

Have no physical symptoms or have only mild symptoms, or

Have symptoms of somatic symptom disorder

A healthcare professional may perform physical tests and psychological evaluations that may involve questions about your symptoms, stress in daily life, background history (including family medical history), and other issues that might be affecting your life.

APA – The American Psychological Association – has set certain criteria for illness anxiety disorder that may include;

A preoccupation with coming down with a serious disorder

Not having physical symptoms

A preoccupation about having a medical condition or family history of a medical issue

Constantly checking your body for disease

Avoiding doctor’s appointments in fear of being diagnosed with a serious illness

A preoccupation with having a serious illness for at least 6 months

Treatment For Health Anxiety

With timely diagnosis and intervention, an illness anxiety disorder can be treated, just like any other anxiety disorder. Here are some recommended treatment options for hypochondria;

1. Psychotherapy

The most common treatment option for health anxiety is psychotherapy. CBT or cognitive-behavioral therapy. CBT focuses on teaching a person the skills to manage and cope with their disorder.

CBT helps in identifying the worry, changing the negative beliefs and thoughts into positive ones, and teaching healthy ways to cope with the stress of health anxiety.

2. Self-Help

If you have health anxiety, you can start by keeping a diary of the symptoms of your anxiety, like how often you are checking your body for signs of illness, etc.

You can also try to go for a walk, or meditate (breathing exercises, mindfulness, or relaxing exercises) if you feel the urge to check your body for the signs of an illness.

Also Read: How to Help Someone with Anxiety? Your Complete Guide

3. Medication

Hypochondria can be treated easily with psychotherapy and self-help techniques but it might not work with many people. If your therapist finds that your symptoms are severe and can’t be treated with CBT, they might suggest antidepressants such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).

These medications might have some side effects that you need to ask your physician about before taking them.

Note: Do not take antidepressants without consulting a doctor.

Final Words:

People with health anxiety might find it difficult to navigate through life without constantly worrying about their health. This anxiety may cause people to lose precious moments of life. If you feel you have health anxiety, then you should talk to your doctor for additional help.

It is normal to feel anxious regarding your health, especially in the time when the scare of COVID-19 and its many variants is still alive, but you need to remember that it can be treated with some help – from a therapist or yourself.

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“I cannot always control what goes on outside. But I can always control what goes on inside.” – Wayne Dyer

You might not be able to control what goes around you, but you can always control the way you react to it, psychologically.

I hope this article helped you understand what is hypochondria or illness anxiety disorder and how you can seek treatment for it. For more, you can leave us a message at info@calmsage.com.

Take Care and Stay Safe!

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The post Health Anxiety (Hypochondria): Causes, Symptoms and Treatments appeared first on Calm Sage – Your Guide to Mental and Emotional Well-being.

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