What is Hypochondria and How Do You Treat It?
Hypochondria Is An Illness In Itself That Needs Expert Medical Attention
It is normal for people to be worried about their health at certain points in life. Whenever they feel physical pain or discomfort, it triggers a question of why they are experiencing it. If an unusual rash or lump appears on any area of the body, they wonder and most of the time worry what could such manifestation be. While it’s just natural for us to find out what’s causing a certain symptom, there are those who undergo a great deal of stress worrying that they may have a serious disease.
“How much pain they have cost us, the evils which have never happened.”
Hypochondriacs are so obsessed with their health that they tend to react strongly at the slightest sign of physical discomfort. They have what is also called an illness anxiety disorder, in which fear of having an illness persists. Experts say that Hypochondria is a mental health disorder more than anything else. Reason? The anxiety that hypochondriacs feel is so chronic that the worrying becomes debilitating.
Get to know what this condition is all about and how to address it.
Hypochondriacs are obsessed with their health that they tend to react strongly at the slightest sign of physical discomfort.
It is a severe health anxiety
For hypochondriacs, the intense and constant worry over their health IS the illness. They treat normal bodily functions as possible symptoms of serious health problems. Usually, they focus their attention on a particular body organ or a certain disease, and even worse, one illness after another.
People afflicted with the disorder waste no time talking to others about what they are feeling or seeing a doctor to pacify them. In reality, though, the worry does not stop there. If they are made to undergo tests that come out negative, they either insist that they have a condition or become even more stressed that their problem may never be determined and cured. Health experts advise that fear (of having a disease) that lingers for months is indicative of a serious healthy anxiety disorder.
If they are made to undergo tests that come out negative, they may insist that they have a condition. Otherwise, they become even more stressed that their problem may never be determined and cured. Health experts advise that the fear that lingers for months is indicative of a serious healthy anxiety disorder.
Other specific conditions cause it
Hypochondria normally begins in early adulthood. It may manifest after recovering from a serious illness, or if a ‘significant other’ becomes ill or passes away. The condition may also develop from a heart condition. For example, a hypochondriac who has had a heart problem dreads each feeling of discomfort or pain as this may be linked to the heart problem.
The prevalence of hypochondria has been associated with other disorders such as:
- Generalized anxiety disorder.
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
Of the three, OCD comes closest to hypochondria. Why? The two involve a need for regular checks to be reassured. However, as a result of their persistent worrying and checking, the victims end up worsening their situation by conjuring scenarios of disaster.
It’s also interesting to note that hypochondriacs tend to have a low threshold for pain. Therefore, they are prone to ‘feel’ internal sensations more readily than others do.
The rehab process takes time
Hypochondria is usually hard to diagnose. This is because hypochondriacs seek the help of medical doctors to diagnose what they’re feeling instead of going to mental health doctors. The medical doctors should be able to recognize the signs and refer the patient to a psychiatrist or therapist for proper attention. There are steps to address the disorder. Altogether, they all form part of the cognitive behavioral treatment:
Before seeing a mental health specialist, the patient has to have a proper medical evaluation. There is need to ensure that there is no underlying physical ailment. The hypochondriac has to see proof that no disease is present.
“I’m a complete hypochondriac. If my heart starts beating a little faster than normal, I think I’m having an attack.”– Antonio Banderas
Proper Education on one’s health
The patients need to learn facts about the symptoms they experience so that there would be no room for doubts about the person’s health.
It aims to facilitate altering the patient’s perceptions about the sensations they experience. Through guidance from the therapist, the patient is made to understand their condition.
Exposure technique with response prevention
It allows the person to face the anxiety situation and physical sensations. This also enables them to accept the uncertainty that the sensations may or may not be symptoms. The process is gradual, and the objective is to make the person correct the mistaken perceptions. In the process, the therapist employs response prevention, which helps the patient to resist the urge to constantly look for information, visit the physician, or seek reassurance. The objective of ‘exposure’ and ‘response prevention’ is to train the person to face their fears and cope with the anxiety feelings altogether.
Drugs and a change in lifestyle
Research has shown that drugs such a serotonin inhibitors may help in treating hypochondria. Patients should also abstain stay away from stimulants like caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine. Furthermore, eating a healthy diet is very helpful. Finally, doing regular meditation is said to help cure hypochondria.
Hypochondria is a condition that may be difficult to diagnose and treat. Nevertheless, upon detection, the psychiatrist can help the patient accept that the “problem” is all in mind. After that, the patient would be more willing to undergo treatment and understand the condition better.
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