Hypochondria: what it is, symptoms, causes and treatment

At some point in our lives it is normal that, in certain situations, problems, disorders, illnesses or conditions, we feel some concern for our health, especially if we have had a case of a family member who has fallen seriously ill, or who have died due to a serious illness.

But when that worry becomes exorbitant, and above all appears continuously to the point of preventing us from leading a normal life, we are faced with what medical specialists call illness anxiety disorder; Or what is the same, hypochondria.

What is hypochondria?

We could say that hypochondria is the attitude that a person adopts before the disease. In these cases, the individual believes in an unfounded manner that he suffers from some type of serious illness, and develops his life according to this belief, so that this concern can lead in most cases to suffer an authentic death in life, preventing him from developing his day to day normally.

The essential characteristic of hypochondria is more than evident: concern and fear of suffering from a disease, or the conviction of having a serious illness.

To reach this conclusion, the person tends to observe his body and personally interpret some bodily sensation or any other sign that appears in it. This concern occurs with coughs, small wounds, moles ... or even totally normal physical symptoms, such as the heartbeat or involuntary movements of our body.

As a result of that concern, in the first few occasions he goes to the doctor in search of a diagnosis of his illness. When the specialist confirms that he has nothing, the hypochondriac calms down and remains calm for a while, but his worry comes back again.

We are in a circle that finally ends with the patient may not go to the doctor again, or may go to the consultations of several specialists in search of their feared diagnosis.

Entering the head of the hypochondriac

The so-called disease anxiety disorder, popularly known as hypochondria, consists of a psychological disorder, usually chronic, that causes a lot of anxiety in those who suffer from it. It is an attitude that the individual adopts before the illness, being the most characteristic symptom the unfounded worry of suffering some type of serious illness, either at those moments or in the near future.

According to this belief, the worry leads the person to attend to the physical symptoms that appear in his body, even though these can be considered as normal, as for example is the case of the heartbeat or the involuntary movements themselves. It is common for the hypochondriac to observe his body in search of some symptom or change that he may consider "suspect".

Once you find it, or you think you find it, you begin to worry, to feel anxiety and a lot of fear about the future. Go to the doctor's office seeking confirmation and diagnosis of the disorder you think you suffer. However, when he confirms that he has nothing, he stays quiet for a while, then worries again. In this way, worry and obsession will begin again, while a journey may begin with the consultations of different specialists in the search for a diagnosis that does not arrive.

Among its most common symptoms, we can find ourselves with the anxiety disorder itself, fear and worry to have a serious illness or a serious health disorder, as well as attention and exaggerated observation to the different and different symptoms of the body.

What are your causes?

There are several causes of hypochondria, which can precisely lead to their appearance. The following stand out:

  • Misinterpretation of symptoms.
  • Traumatic experiences due to the death of a loved one, or related to a disease.
  • Excessive protection by parents.
  • Education based on fear.

Recently, with the appearance of the so-called flu A It was found that the receipt of alarming information about diseases can cause a good number of people to suffer from hypochondria, whether momentary or chronic.

Symptoms of hypochondria

We can establish the following symptomatology related to hypochondria:

  • Anxiety.
  • Fear and constant worry about having a serious illness.
  • Attention and exaggerated observation in the body.
  • Study of any symptom of the organism, even if it is normal.

We must bear in mind that, in addition to these symptoms, there are also physical symptoms directly related to the person's worry, since it is a somatoform disorder it tends to produce real pain that presents the only psychological cause, so that these pains increase with negative thoughts about health.

In fact, one of the main symptoms of hypochondria it is the anxiety that the person feels when faced with the possibility of actually suffering from a more or less serious illness, feeling in fact an exaggerated concern about health-related issues.

In many cases, the hypochondriac person can spend hours meditating on the symptoms of his body (whether real or not), even noticing fully normal functional signs that normally escape consciousness, relating them precisely to that presumed disease.

In any case, we summarize most of the symptoms that appear below:

  • Excessive anxiety due to suffering a supposed serious illness.
  • Excessive worry
  • Exaggerated attention to functional signs of the body and supposed symptoms of the disease.
  • Fear of suffering a serious illness.
  • After visiting a sick person, or reading an article about health (to give a simple example), the person thinks they feel the same symptoms.
  • They feel discomfort of all kinds, from excessive sweating to increased heart rate, through abdominal pain or muscle cramps.
  • Conversations with other people always tend to revolve around health and illness.

Causes of hypochondria

It is a disorder that occurs equally in both men and women, so it does not have a "preference" for a particular sex. On the other hand, many specialists agree that hypochondria can be triggered by the following situations:

  • The loss of a loved one, who has died due to a serious illness (for example, cancer).
  • History of physical abuse.
  • History of sexual abuse.

We must bear in mind that, in these cases, people tend to be more prone to hypochondria, but this does not mean that they will necessarily suffer.

Treatment of hypochondria

Given that people with hypochondria feel real anguish, the doctor can never deny their symptoms or question them.. And we must not forget that, in reality, the person hypochondriasis is actually sick, although in reality he does not have the physical illness that he fears.

Therefore, the doctor must tell the patient that he does not really have a disease, but that adequate and continuous medical follow-up will be effective in controlling the different symptoms that appear.

From a medical point of view, the most common is Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which is a type of psychotherapy useful to better manage symptoms related to hypochondria. In fact, it is an ideal therapy because it helps the person to recognize what seems to worsen the symptoms, to develop strategies and methods to manage them, and to stay more active.

On the other hand, antidepressant medications help control some of the symptoms, as for example is the case of physical symptoms related to hypochondria and excessive worry. This article is published for informational purposes only. It can not and should not replace the consultation with a Psychologist. We advise you to consult your trusted Psychologist.

Anxiety Disorders : Symptoms of Anxiety Disorders (November 2022)