Hypochondria is a mental disorder characterized by excessive and unhealthy preoccupation with health. Find out what it is, its symptoms, what causes it and what medical treatment can help in its cure.
At some point in our life it is normal that, in certain situations, problems, disorders, illnesses or conditions, we feel some kind of concern about our health, especially if we have had a case of a relative who has fallen seriously ill, or who has died of a serious illness.
But when that concern becomes exorbitant, and above all it 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 when faced with the disease. In these cases, the individual unfoundedly believes 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 a true death in life, preventing him from develop your day to day normally.
The essential characteristic of hypochondria is more than evident: worry and fear of suffering from a disease, or the conviction of having a serious disease.
To reach this conclusion, the person tends to observe his body and to 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 this concern, in the first few occasions he goes to the doctor in search of a diagnosis of his disease. When the specialist confirms that he has nothing, the hypochondriac calms down and remains calm for a while, but his concern returns again.
We are faced with a circle that finally ends with the patient not going to the doctor again, or he can go to the consultations of several specialists in search of his dreaded diagnosis.
Entering the head of the hypochondriac
What is known as illness anxiety disorder, popularly known as hypochondria, consists of a psychological disorder, generally chronic, that causes a lot of anxiety in those who suffer from it? It is an attitude that the individual adopts when faced with the disease, the most characteristic symptom being the unfounded concern of suffering some type of serious disease, either at that time or in the near future.
According to this belief, concern leads the person to attend to the physical symptoms that appear in their body, even though these may be considered normal, such as the case of the heartbeat or the involuntary movements themselves. It is common for the hypochondriac to observe his body in search of any symptoms or changes that he may consider as “suspicious.”
Once you find it, or think you find it, you begin to worry, feel anxious and very fearful about the future. He goes to the doctor’s office looking for confirmation and diagnosis of the disorder he thinks he suffers. However, when he confirms that he has nothing, he stays calm for a while, and then worries again. In this way, concern and obsession will begin again, while a journey through the consultations of different specialists in the search for a diagnosis that does not arrive can begin.
Among its most common symptoms, we can find the anxiety disorder itself, fear and concern to have a serious illness or a serious health disorder, as well as attention and exaggerated observation of the different and different symptoms of the body.
What are your causes?
There are several causes of hypochondria, which can precisely lead to its appearance. The following stand out:
- Misinterpretation of symptoms.
- Traumatic experiences due to the death of a loved one, or related to illness.
- Excessive protection by parents.
- Education based on fear.
Recently, with the appearance of what is known as influenza a, it was found that receiving 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 symptoms related to hypochondria:
- Constant fear and worry about having a serious illness.
- Exaggerated attention and observation in the body.
- Study of any symptom of the body, even if it is normal.
We must bear in mind that, in addition to these symptoms, physical symptoms related directly to the concern suffered by the person also appear, since being a somatoform disorder it tends to produce real pain that has the only psychological cause, so that these Pains increase with negative thoughts about health.
In fact, one of the main symptoms of hypochondria is the anxiety that the person feels about the possibility of actually suffering from a more or less serious illness, in fact feeling 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 becoming aware of totally 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 from 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 on 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 that it does not have a “preference” for a specific 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 from 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 suffering from hypochondria, but this does not mean that they will necessarily suffer from it.
Treatment of hypochondria
Since people with hypochondria feel real distress, the doctor can never deny their symptoms or question them. And it is that we must not forget that, in reality, the hypochondriac person is indeed ill, although in reality they do not have the physical illness that they fear.
Therefore, the doctor must tell the patient that he does not really have a disease, but that adequate and continuous medical monitoring 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 appears to be making symptoms worse, to develop strategies and methods to manage them, and to be more active.
On the other hand, antidepressant medications help control some of the symptoms, such as physical symptoms related to hypochondria and excessive worry.