Hypochondria – The fear of illnessHypochondriacs are convinced that they are ill – over and over again. And you must always have a doctor's arance that you are not ill. But that rearing feeling doesn't last long. Shortly afterwards, the fear of being seriously ill creeps over them again.
Hypochondria is the unfounded, but pronounced, fear of getting sick or being sick. This fear can become obsessive. Hypochondria is in the medical sense no independent illness, it is assigned – depending upon characteristic – to an obsessive-compulsive disorder, an anxiety illness, a schizophrenia or a depression. Typical for hypochondriacs: They have to get medical confirmation again and again that they are healthy. But even this calms them only for a short time, quickly uncertainty and panic dominate the thinking again. A subtype of hypochondria is cyberchondria, so to speak a modern form of hypochondria. In this case, sufferers do not go to the doctor, but search feverishly on the Internet for their feared illness.
Does this muscle spasm indicate a serious metabolic derangement? Doesn't that cough sound dangerous? Wasn't the mole a little lighter yesterday?? Are my headaches caused by a tumor in the brain or are my digestive problems due to colon cancer?? These and similar questions are constantly circling through the hypochondriac's head. First signs usually appear after puberty.
Hypochondria is a serious illness
Hypochondriacs are often not taken seriously. They are often accused of being malingerers or complainers. However, experts point out that it is a serious mental illness that needs medical treatment. It is true: Hypochondriacs do not go to the doctor because of a niggle, but because their soul is suffering.
He who lies once is not believed – so the saying goes. Hypochondriacs occasionally suffer from this with doctors. Because hypochondriacs think they are seriously ill even when they have trivial complaints, sometimes symptoms of a real serious illness are misjudged by the doctor. There it can even happen that a hypochondriac is not treated accordingly. About the frequency of hypochondria there are only a few. Studies are also only conditionally conclusive. Estimates ame that about 0.5 to 1 percent of the total population in Germany fulfills the criteria for the diagnosis. Up to 7 percent of men and women are more worried or fearful than average that their health is not good. However, these worries and fears do not meet the criteria for hypochondria. Hypochondria is considered to occur in women. Men equally frequent.
People with hypochondria, full of mistrust and fear, constantly observe their bodies and their reactions – they are constantly on the lookout for possible signs of illness. Any deviation from normal health sensations, i.e. any itching, coughing, or pulling, is considered a sign of a serious illness.
The fears can be vague, but they can also refer very specifically to symptoms or – usually serious – illnesses. Medical arances of their own health only reare them for a very short time. Hypochondriacs refuse to accept diagnoses that do not confirm their feared illnesses. The anxiety-free phases until the next visit to the doctor become shorter and shorter.
If hypochondria persists for a long time, there is a risk of serious consequences: Those affected begin to isolate themselves from their environment, to shut themselves off. Fear and dejection dominate their sensations. Conversely, friends lose interest in contact with hypochondriacs because they only talk about their supposed illnesses. Conversely, those affected feel that they are no longer taken seriously and are abandoned. Depressive mood swings. Delusional behavior can occur. In severe cases, there is a risk of problems in the private and professional environment as well as social relegation.
The causes of hypochondria cannot yet be identified without doubt. There is no conclusive evidence for a hereditary predisposition. Scientists discuss possible altered brain function in people with hypochondria. Dutch researchers discovered that certain areas of the brain that process emotional experience and direct attention in certain directions are overactive in hypochondria and are easily influenced by trivial things.
The way people deal with illness is shaped in childhood
Medical experts believe that the reason why many hypochondriacs are unable to deal appropriately with the ie of health is partly rooted in their childhood. These include:
– overprotective parents who constantly fear that their child will fall ill and therefore frequently take their child to the doctor or call an ambulance – real, serious childhood illnesses of their own (such as acute leukemia or other forms of cancer) – serious illnesses or even the death of close family members during childhood.
Triggers of hypochondria in adults
Triggers of the compulsive fears with Hypochondrie as adults can be:
– Traumatic experiences (such as the death of a loved one) – Life phases with a lot of stress – Serious diagnoses (such as cancer) that turn out to be wrong (so-called misdiagnoses).
Hypochondria in medical studies
In the course of their studies, many medical students are afraid of suffering from the diseases that are currently the subject of their studies. This also applies to alternative practitioners or nurses. Generally, however, this hypochondria is short-lived and will pass.
Treatment of hypochondria is difficult mainly because it is a symptom of the disease that sufferers think they are ill – but are not ill with hypochondria at all. Rather, the patients firmly believe in the currently imagined illness. If, for example, the doctor simply does not want to admit the imagined cancer from the patient's point of view, patients often feel misunderstood and lose confidence in the doctor treating them. Given this interplay, then, the first challenge for the diagnosing clinician is to get the patient to engage in hypochondria treatment. Often this treatment consists of a combination of psychotherapeutic measures and the administration of medication. However, there is no universally accepted therapeutic concept against hypochondria. The best chances of recovery are offered by therapy in special psychosomatic centers as well as by psychiatrists or a psychotherapist.
Psychotherapy for hypochondria
Psychotherapy is the treatment of choice for hypochondria. The main aim is to restore the patient's confidence in his or her own body and to relieve his or her fears. A study from Frankfurt am Main showed that so-called cognitive behavioral therapy (critically questioning one's own physical sensations) in combination with confrontation therapy (facing one's fears and thereby controlling one's fears again) has the best chances of success. This therapy for hypochondria is mainly used in specialized psychosomatic clinics for the treatment of health anxiety.
In the treatment of fears, including fear of illness, so-called psychosensory techniques are being used with increasing success. within the framework of psychotherapeutic procedures, the patient is led into a state of deep relaxation, security and harmony by means of light, colors, music and warmth, for example. Well-known psychosensory techniques are EMDR according to Shapiro, TFT according to Callahan, EFT according to Craig, OEI according to Bradshaw and colleagues or "Havening" according to Ruden.
Drug therapy for hypochondria
In serious cases with depressive moods, antidepressants are sometimes prescribed. Active substances are for example amitriptyline, clomipramine, desipramine, doxepin. Citalopram, escitalopram, fluoxetine and paroxetine.
In the case of severe schizophrenic symptoms or. In the case of hypochondriacal delusions, neuroleptics are the drugs of choice. Typical agents from this group are amisulpiride, clozapine, melperone, pipamperone or risperidone.
Self-help against hypochondria
Do not allow your fears to get out of hand. If several doctors are you that you are healthy: Trust them. There is no reasonable reason why all medical professionals should tell you the untruth.
Take advantage of preventive health care opportunities. This will provide you with a good safety net. And: Talk to relatives. Friends about your anxiety. Some things then quickly go up in smoke. This is always better than worrying unnecessarily in the privacy of one's own home and getting worked up about something.