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How to Deal With Hypochondria

Discover everything you need to know about hypochondria and where to seek hypochondria treatment.

What Is Hypochondria?

Hypochondria is characterized by a constant fear of contracting illnesses or diseases or thinking you currently have one. Living with hypochondria is difficult, as it can cause severe anxiety, stress, and fear. However, people with this disorder must learn to manage the symptoms and not allow them to take over and control their life.1

Hypochondria, also known as illness anxiety disorder, health anxiety, and hypochondriasis, is a mental health condition that causes people to excessively worry that they are suffering or are at risk of suffering a terrible illness. These fears often aren't backed up with any logic or physical evidence.

Difference Between Fear and Hypochondria

While the fear of contracting a debilitating illness isn't uncommon, there's a difference between a normal fear and a fear caused by hypochondria. Hypochondriacs allow fear to control nearly every aspect of their lives and live in a state of constant peril. The number of people with hypochondria is low—only about 0.1% of all Americans suffer from it.2 

What Are the Causes of Hypochondria?

Like most mental disorders, the exact causes of hypochondria are unknown. Nevertheless, there are a few causes that are typically linked to the condition. They will be detailed below.3 

Beliefs

People might have trouble distinguishing the difference between mild and severe symptoms. If various symptoms arise, but a person struggles to interpret them, they may begin pursuing illnesses leading to the belief that they are sick.

Genetics

Those who have a close relative or family member that suffered from hypochondria are at higher risk of developing it.

Previous Illness

If someone had a severe illness earlier in life, they tend to be more rigid and on guard about contracting another serious disease.

Other Factors

Other factors, such as extreme stress, a traumatic experience, childhood trauma, or mental health issues like depression, can also contribute to hypochondria.

Symptoms of Hypochondria

Some of the prevalent signs and symptoms associated with hypochondria will be explained below.3

  • Fearing Normal Functions: Normal bodily functions, such as a growling stomach due to hunger, can pivot into a dangerous symptom in the mind of a hypochondriac. Fearing normal functions can also mean avoiding social gatherings for fear of contracting a disease from someone else.
  • Fear of Minor Abnormalities: A minor thing, such as a rash or bruise, can seem like a major health event. 
  • Regularly Talking About Illness: Obsessively thinking about and discussing illnesses, consuming their minds.
  • Doctor Visits: Frequent doctor visits with little or no symptoms are also signs of hypochondria. 
  • No Relief From Test Results: Regardless of the test results, they will still be convinced that they have or are at risk of having an illness. 
  • Avoiding the Doctor: Another form of hypochondria is when people go out of their way to avoid seeing a doctor. This is due to worry that their fears will be confirmed and they are seriously ill.
  • Seek Proof of Your Illness: If people don't get the answers they’re looking for at a medical exam, they will scour the internet or medical journals to find confirmation of their illness. 

Hypochondria Triggers

Hypochondria often occurs in episodes that are triggered by internal or external factors. It is important to recognize the relevant triggers in the case that either you or a loved one experiences hypochondria to mitigate them and learn healthy and appropriate coping mechanisms.

Internal Triggers

Internal triggers refer to things inside the body that make people think they are sick. These triggers are normal functions of the body, such as a gurgling stomach, low energy levels, muscle twitches, or cramps. It can also include symptoms like a rash or feeling unusually itchy.

External Triggers

External triggers refer to things that happen outside of the body. Covid and the fear of its variants would be a good example of a recently occurring external trigger. Other examples, such as physical touch, social gatherings, inconclusive test results, or hearing that a loved one is ill, can also serve as external triggers.

Therapies for Hypochondria

There are several therapies and treatments to help those suffering from hypochondria.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is the most common and effective treatment for hypochondria. CBT is a form of psychotherapy that helps people deal and cope with their fear of illnesses and explore alternative ways to manage their worries rather than frequent doctor visits. Here are other ways that CBT can help:

  • Stop stressing about illnesses and the fear of getting one
  • Change the way people feel and process physical symptoms that are normal body functions
  • Teaches people how to cope with fears
  • Improve everyday life and activities
  • Help people get over their fear of public gatherings or events
  •  Gives people the ability to control their fears rather than letting the fears control them 

Bibliotherapy

Bibliotherapy is the act of reading books or stories to reassure people that they don't have a certain illness. Hearing it from a doctor is one thing, but seeing it on paper may offer further reassurance. Bibliotherapy can also include reading books about what hypochondria is and how to overcome it.

Behavioral Stress Management

This type of therapy is useful in helping hypochondriacs lower their stress levels. Stress will compound fears of illness, which means controlling stress is crucial.

Group Therapy

The physical act of being in the same room with people may reduce the fear of contracting an illness. It will also help to talk with others who have the same condition.

Hypochondria Treatment

Hypochondria Treatment

How Is Hypochondria Diagnosed?

Doctors refer to the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) to diagnose hypochondria. They will also ask patients why they fear getting sick and determine if there's a logical cause. Patients may ultimately get referred to a behavioral health specialist, such as a psychologist, for a firm diagnosis.4 

How to Manage Hypochondria

Managing hypochondria is extremely difficult, especially alone. However, by following these three simple rules, people can mitigate the fear and control of their life that hypochondria produces.

  • Don't research symptoms
  • Find support
  • Communicate with a doctor

Get Help for Hypochondria at Anew Treatment Center

If you're tired of letting hypochondria control your life, the experts at Anew Treatment Center are here to help. We provide a compassionate environment designed to give you the best chance at recovery. By utilizing the previously mentioned forms of therapy, you'll learn how to manage hypochondria healthily. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.

Learn More About Our Treatment Programs

Our team is ready to talk and determine how we can help. Rest assured your call is confidential. We're here for you.