Hypochondria the panic fear of illness can make you sick augsburger allgemeine

People with hypochondria fear terrible illnesses at the slightest complaint, but behind it there is usually something harmless. But this panic fear should be taken seriously.

Everybody knows about imaginary sick people – hypochondriacs. They immediately think of skin cancer when they see a dark spot on their arm, they ame the worst when they have a headache, and they go to the doctor at the slightest sign of a cold. Positively formulated, one could also say: Hypochondriacs pay attention to their bodies and notice immediately when something changes. But where does this fear of illness come from??

It is often said that seniors are more into their prudes than other age groups, knows Professor Frieder R. Lang from the Friedrich Alexander University in Erlangen, Germany. However, he cannot confirm this prejudice. Increasingly, however, the psychogerontologist notices that older people overreact out of fear of dementia. The specialist considers this alarming.

Behind the fear of illness is a feeling of loneliness

Those who are afraid of certain diseases should talk to an expert about it, advises Lang. Because there circulated many misconceptions about diseases, especially regarding the early symptoms of dementia. "If you have the right knowledge, you can seek help from a specialist at an early stage and learn things there that may be rearing", explains the psychogerontologist.

However, if someone constantly talks about their illnesses and complaints, this does not necessarily mean that they are hypochondriacs. "Emphasizing symptoms can also be a call for attention.", says Ursula Lenz of the Federal Association of Senior Citizens' Organizations (BAGSO). Many doctors report older patients who regularly come to outpatient clinics and practices even though they are not seriously ill – simply because they are looking for a contact person. In such cases, Lenz advises patients to look for a new task, something they enjoy and that gives them meaning. Hiking and gymnastics groups are ideal for this, because you also make new contacts there. Then you are automatically noticed more, says Lenz.

If, on the other hand, one concentrates on a particular symptom and ames that something bad is behind it, then the complaints can only increase, says Gaby Bleichhardt. At the Philipps University in Marburg, she is researching the subject of fear of illness. The psychological psychotherapist explains that the causes are manifold: "Many of those affected had anxious parents and therefore tend to always ame the worst. Often illness has played a special role in their history, for example, that their best friend died of breast cancer at an early age or that they themselves have already been misdiagnosed."

Bleichhardt advises people of all ages who are afraid of illness to first observe physical processes, thoughts and feelings and to try to establish connections. Most physical complaints are not an expression of serious physical illnesses, but harmless signs that the body is "alive.

Hypochondria: Sufferers suffer from their illness

Those who have anxiety should have complaints medically clarified, says Bleichhardt. However, if one wants to repeat the same examination several times, although nothing alarming was found on the previous occasions, this could be a sign that the diagnosis of a hypochondriacal disorder has been made. People like to make jokes about hypochondriacs who get carried away with their suffering. But those affected are really suffering. Not of the disease they ascribe to themselves, but of the fear and its consequences.

Bleichhardt recommends psychotherapy for patients whose anxiety lasts longer than six months and whose general lifestyle is severely impaired. Here, patients learn to better understand their physical processes and better manage anxiety. Cognitive behavioral therapy in particular is said to be very effective.

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