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Hypochondria (Health Anxiety)

Hypochondria, also known as health anxiety, is a mental disorder that involves an exaggerated worry about having serious illnesses despite a lack of medical evidence. Learn more about hypochondria, its symptoms, and treatment options for managing this anxiety-related condition. Explore how you can get support and guidance to manage hypochondria effectively.

What is Hypochondria/health anxiety?

Health anxiety is a persistent and excessive worry about getting sick or about already being sick. It is common for small symptoms to be magnified and interpreted as signs of serious diseases, often of a life-threatening nature. The anxiety regarding various symptoms and the potential diseases they may be associated with is intense and may recur despite negative results from medical examinations. In the past, this anxiety was called hypochondria, and the term is still used even though it is no longer an official medical diagnosis.

Causes of health anxiety:

It is not yet completely clear what causes health anxiety but it is believed to be the result of several factors.

  • Thought processes: Sometimes the body can react in different ways than we are used to, and that uncertainty can be difficult to accept. Instead of accepting this uncertainty, some may interpret it as a sign of underlying illness and try to find evidence that they are ill.

  • Upbringing and environment: Growing up in an environment where health and illness is the subject of constant worry can lead to this worry becoming a learned behavior.

  • Previous medical history: If you have suffered from serious illness in the past, especially in childhood, it can create a fear of being affected again.

Symptoms of Hypochondria:

  • Constant thoughts that one is suffering from a serious illness.

  • Concern that common physical symptoms are indications of a serious illness.

  • Continued concern despite seeking medical attention and negative test results have been obtained, confirming that the individual is healthy.

  • A worry about illness so intense that it affects daily functionality.

  • Repeated doctor visits due to concern about symptoms, or avoidance of seeking care due to fear of receiving a serious diagnosis.

Health anxiety can be a stressful condition that negatively affects quality of life, but there are treatments and strategies available to manage and alleviate its effects. If you or someone you know suffers from health anxiety, it is important to seek professional help and support.