Hypochondria: When does the fear of illness become pathological??
Anyone who suspects a cancer behind every ache may be suffering from hypochondria. DONNA Online explains at what point the fear of illness becomes a mental disorder. When groundless fear of life-threatening diseases. Doctors' marathons become a habit: Often "imaginary sick people" suffer from hypochondria. We explain what triggers the mental disorder, what symptoms occur in hypochondriacs and how they can be treated.
The fear of suffering from a serious illness is normal to a certain extent. Even people with stable health start to wonder from time to time: Could a dangerous disease be behind sudden physical complaints?? However, if physical symptoms are permanently over- or misinterpreted and every little ache requires a trip to the doctor, the fear of illness may also be based on a psychological disorder: Hypochondria. DONNA Online explains how you can recognize hypochondriacs and how the disease can be treated.
How many Germans are hypochondriacs?
The good news first: According to current studies, only one percent of the German population actually suffer from hypochondria, with men and women affected to the same extent. So the fact that you suffer from an abnormal form of fear of illness is, in percentage terms, rather unlikely. Nevertheless, there is a fine line between excessive fear of disease. Of a hypochondriacal disorder often fluently.
What is hypochondria??
Hypochondria is a so-called somatoform functional disorder. This means that persistent physical complaints occur without identifiable medical causes. The symptoms are often psychosomatic, i.e. they are triggered by psychological stress. Whether it's an upset stomach, a cold or a mild backache, hypochondriacs misinterpret symptoms that are actually harmless and ame that they are caused by life-threatening diseases such as cancer or multiple sclerosis.
Pathological hypochondriacs often cannot be diaded from their self-diagnosis of suffering from a dangerous illness, even after marathon medical examinations and intensive research into symptoms. Instead, sufferers plunge further and further into the search for potential, usually fatal clinical pictures as the cause of their physical complaints: harmless headaches become brain tumors, stomach pains point to a dangerous stomach ulcer, tension in the upper body becomes the harbinger of a heart attack.
Hypochondriacs quickly fall into a vicious circle: a harmless symptom of illness occurs, which causes the sufferer to pay increased attention to his or her physical condition. As more and more potential complaints are analyzed and the fear of a life-threatening illness grows, the state of health actually worsens as a psychosomatic consequence. At this point, it is hardly possible for the hypochondriac to escape the behavior pattern without outside help.
Hypochondria: Often ridiculed even by experts
Although the existence of a hypochondriacal disorder has been scientifically proven, serious recognition of the disease has so far failed to materialize. Many doctors do not take the symptoms of hypochondriacs seriously – but adequate psychological care is essential for hypochondriacs. If the fears of affected patients are ignored, the psychological disorder can make their lives a misery. Many hypochondriacs distance themselves from friends and family and, as the disease progresses and symptoms worsen, can no longer perform their jobs. If you don't get help, you rarely get rid of hypochondria on your own. Increasing age, protracted illnesses and often gaps in education are factors that can further exacerbate an already existing hypochondria.
These are the triggers of hypochondriacal disorder
So far, scientists do not agree on the causes of hypochondria. However, there are factors that can promote a hypochondriacal disorder. This includes
enormous Stress, usually over a long period of time
Conflicts in family, profession or partnership.
Often the hypochondria is accompanied by signs of depression or an anxiety disorder.
Hypochondria: diagnosis and treatment options
In order to get a precise diagnosis of the disease, a visit to the family doctor is often not enough. If you feel that you are not understood or misdiagnosed by your doctor, you should definitely see a specialist: Often, only a visit to a psychiatrist can clarify whether a hypochondriacal disorder is actually present in the individual case – or whether it is merely a case of slightly exaggerated fear of illness. When making a diagnosis, patients must answer several essential questions to identify hypochondria and rule out other mental illnesses such as panic disorder. Among other things, the specialist checks..
which diseases the patient had in the past
which Preliminary examinations and treatments have already taken place
the How to deal of the patient with physical ailments
whether there are incisive Events in childhood and adolescence that could have triggered the disorder
whether shortly before the appearance of the symptoms a stressful event a death in the family or among friends, excessive stress, etc., or a sudden change in the child's behavior.
For the most effective treatment of hypochondriacal disorder, therapy should begin as early as possible. An improvement can bring the regular use of relaxation methods, which are usually used in combination with behavioral and psychotherapy. Depending on the extent of the hypochondria, the therapy can last between six weeks. Lasting for a year or even longer.
Checklist: Is my fear of illness normal – or am I a hypochondriac?
In addition to the constant fear of being ill with a serious disease such as cancer, hypochondriacs show further symptoms of illness. These include:
cardiovascular problems, z.B. Heart neurosis
Gastrointestinal complaints, z.B. Irritable bowel syndrome
increasing restlessness and nervous restlessness, due to the fear of suffering from a bad disease.
If you have been experiencing these symptoms for at least six months without any organic findings and the fear of illness is interfering with your everyday life, you should seek help from an expert.
Can I prevent hypochondria?
Parents are often advised not to go to the doctor with their children because of every little scratch, in order to prevent later hypochondria. Otherwise, the child is conditioned at a young age that small physical ailments could be dangerous.
In adulthood, prevention is hardly possible, especially since those affected do not perceive themselves as hypochondriacs, but are firmly convinced that they are really suffering from a dangerous disease. Often, even in patients with a severe hypochondriacal disorder, a diagnosis is never made.