News Karnataka
Saturday, February 04 2023

Hypochondriasis: An anxiety disorder with constant fear of health

Hypochondriasis: An anxiety disorder with constant fear of health
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People with illness anxiety disorder, also called hypochondria or hypochondriasis, have an unrealistic fear that they have a serious medical condition or fear that they are at high risk of becoming ill. They may misinterpret typical body functions as signs of illness.

Even after medical tests show no problems, people with hypochondriasis are still preoccupied with the idea that thinks they are seriously sick. Their persistent health worries can interfere with their relationships, careers and life.

Someone with hypochondriasis generally fits into one of these categories:

Care-seeking: You find people spending a lot of time in a healthcare setting. They seek advice from multiple specialists and request medical tests.

Care-avoidant: In this case, people avoid doctors and medical care. They might not trust doctors or they think doctors don’t take their symptoms seriously. This can create more fear and anxiety.

People with illness anxiety disorder have ongoing but unrealistic fear about being seriously ill. The specific illness that they worry about often changes.

People with hypochondriasis have the following characteristics of behaviour;

Avoiding people or places due to worry about catching an illness, constantly researching diseases and symptoms and exaggerating symptoms and their severity (for instance, a cough becomes a sign of lung cancer). Obsession with normal body functions, such as heart rate, oversharing your symptoms and health status with others, repeatedly checking for signs of illness, such as checking blood pressure or temperature, and seeking reassurance from loved ones about symptoms or health.

How common this hypochondriasis is?

Generally, it is a rare disorder common with people who faced extremely bad childhood, abused or family members who were prone to anxiety disorders might get a chance to develop this disorder.

Everyone worries about their health from time to time. But if health anxiety affects the ability to enjoy life, one should talk honestly with your healthcare provider.
Usually, people are not so open about talking about this disorder with a healthcare provider. So, one should always discuss this with the health care provider. Health anxiety is a long-term medical condition that can vary in severity over time.

In many people, it seems to worsen with age or during times of stress. However, if people seek help and stick to the treatment plan, it is possible to reduce health anxiety symptoms so they can improve their daily functioning and decrease worries.

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Ramya E.

The author is a counselor and lifeskills trainer who has trained over 2000 students. She holds an M.Sc. in Psychology.

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