Hypochondriac fear of illness

Hypochondriacs: How much fear of illness is normal??

The term "hypochondriac" is often used derogatorily for people who are snivelling. However, a true hypochondriacal disorder is a serious psychological problem that requires treatment.

What is hypochondria?

Hypochondriacs are people who have an excessive fear of health problems and interpret every small physical signal – such as a scratchy throat or a coated tongue – as a symptom of a serious illness.
Many sufferers frequently go to the doctor to have their state of health checked. Often they visit several doctors in a row, because they doubt the diagnosis or think that the doctor does not take their complaints seriously or trivializes them.

Where does the term hypochondriac come from?

Hypochondria is an outdated term that comes from the Greek language. The ancient Greeks believed that the seat of mood disorders was "under the costal cartilages" (hypo = under, chondros = cartilage). Since the spleen was considered to be the cause of these complaints, hypochondria used to be called "splenomegaly". Today, physicians speak of the so-called hypochondriacal disorder. It belongs to the group of somatoform disorders, which are characterized by physical complaints without a sufficient organic cause.

At what point is one a hypochondriac?

The general fear of diseases also occurs in mentally healthy people. However, they are reared when a doctor clarifies certain symptoms and does not identify a particular illness. People with a hypochondriacal disorder, on the other hand, may find it difficult to live with the uncertainty that a clear cause cannot always be found for every physical symptom. Complaints that are harmless in themselves can lead to a persistent preoccupation with the possibility of suffering from one or more serious illnesses. Clinical hypochondriasis is a psychological problem that can lead to a significant reduction in quality of life. About one percent of the population is affected.

Symptoms of hypochondria include:

– Circling thoughts about one's own health and illnesses. – Unclear body symptoms are interpreted as signs of serious illnesses. – Constant self-observation of physical functions. – Frequent visits to and changes of doctors and doubting of findings.

What are the causes of hypochondria?

The causes of hypochondria are complex. Certain risk factors can promote the onset of a hypochondriacal disorder. Often, emotionally stressful events occurred in the childhood or youth of those affected, which made it difficult or impossible to deal normally with physical complaints. This includes, for example, serious illnesses that have affected oneself or family members. Some children then internalize that illness is associated with unpleasant feelings, such as anxiety or sadness, and perceive it as threatening.

An anxiety-promoting parenting style also increases the risk of being a hypochondriac later in life. Harmless physical complaints are dramatized. Children then often make the experience that physical symptoms are almost always something bad and that health means being completely free of complaints. The actual trigger of hypochondria in adulthood is often emotionally stressful events such as a death in the family, illness or a high stress load.

What therapies are available for hypochondriacs?

For hypochondriacs, the so-called cognitive-behavioral therapy is primarily used for treatment. It helps the patient to evaluate their physical discomfort differently and not always think of illness, reduce compulsive behavior, and improve quality of life. It is important for the success of the therapy that the patients feel taken seriously by their therapist. Patients often feel the need to confirm that their symptoms are real and not just in their head. The physician must accept all subjective symptom descriptions, but not necessarily all interpretations. The basis of successful treatment is a trusting doctor-patient relationship characterized by respect, warmth and empathy. Various studies have confirmed that both cognitive therapy and behavioral therapy are effective treatments.

In addition to the above-mentioned behavioral therapy, other methods are used, such as special training for stress or problem-solving management, bibliotherapy (which involves reading selected books or written exercise instructions) or motivational interviewing. Here, however, there is not yet sufficient proof of effectiveness. In particularly severe cases, doctors also prescribe psychotropic drugs, especially so-called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).

Hypochondria is a serious psychological problem, so it is particularly important for the success of the therapy that those affected feel that they are being taken seriously.

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Is hypochondria curable?

Despite therapy, hypochondriacs may relapse again and again, especially when previously unknown physical symptoms appear or when new illnesses are reported in the media. However, with the right treatment, hypochondriacs can usually get their anxiety and discomfort under control to the point where they can cope well in their daily lives. In general, it is important to get treatment as early as possible, because this increases the chances of recovery. In many cases, in addition to the hypochondriacal disorder, there are other diseases, especially psychological conditions such as anxiety disorders or depression. It is important to treat these at the same time to promote the success of therapy.

In any case, it makes sense to involve the relatives in the therapy as well. You can strengthen the self-efficacy of the affected person by taking his fears seriously, encouraging him to seek therapy and helping him to realistically assess his state of health. Excessive care. Resting, on the other hand, can be more harmful. Relatives of a hypochondriac can turn to the treating therapist for tips and information on how to deal with the disease.

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