The fear of having an undiagnosed serious or life-threatening disease, hypochondria is classified as a chronic mental disease. Titled as a psychosomatic disorder, hypochondria is a psychological disorder but with physical symptoms. Few experts consider this condition as a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder. A person suffering from this disorder assumes that he/she is seriously ill despite proper medical evaluations and reassurances.
Hypochondriacs tend to look at normal bodily functions as a serious condition, be it heartbeats or bowel movements. They might also speak of illness of a particular organ and condition alone, like lung cancer, etc. Tests and diagnoses might have confirmed normal results but people with hypochondria still experience anxiety and fear.
Hypochondria is also known as hypochondriasis. A study points out that 0.8% to 8.5% of the US adult population suffers from hypochondria. Hypochondria can manifest as two extremes, one wherein people keep visiting numerous consultants and continue to carry out numerous tests. Others hesitate to go to the doctor assuming that their condition is severe and cannot be treated.
Hypochondria is often accompanied by other psychological disorders. Clinical depression, phobias etc are common conditions in people with hypochondria. Hypochondria is similar to obsessive-compulsive disorder. People with hypochondria are afraid of having an illness whereas patients with OCD worry about getting an illness or transmitting an illness to others.
Hypochondria literally means 'illness without a specific cause'. Hypochondriacs require continuous support from doctors, family or friends. A research study points out that 4 - 9% of the people who visit physicians include hypochondriacs.
Hypochondria as a condition can last for many years. It might be difficult to overcome the thought completely. Treatment might get difficult if the patient is not co-operative. Main areas for treatment include:
Medications: Antidepressant medications
Psychotherapy: Psychotherapy includes cognitive behavioral therapy. This therapy helps the patient understand and recognize the false triggers that cause anxiety.
Hypochondria and depression
While it is not uncommon for all of us to worry about our health at some point of time, it is the obsessive nature of such worry that is associated with hypochondria. It is noticed that a significant proportion of the patients suffering from hypochondria also tend to be suffering from depression or generalized anxiety disorder. Hypochondriacs are not to be confused with those feigning illness.