Opinions on Hypochondriasis

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For the anatomical term, see Hypochondrium.

Hypochondriasis also known as hypochondria, health phobia, health anxiety or illness anxiety disorder, refers to worry about having a serious illness. This debilitating condition is the result of an inaccurate perception of the condition of body or mind despite the absence of an actual medical condition. An individual suffering from hypochondriasis is known as a hypochondriac. Hypochondriacs become unduly alarmed about any physical or psychological symptoms they detect, no matter how minor the symptom may be, and are convinced that they have, or are about to be diagnosed with, a serious illness.

Often, hypochondria persists even after a physician has evaluated a person and reassured them that their concerns about symptoms do not have an underlying medical basis or, if there is a medical illness, their concerns are far in excess of what is appropriate for the level of disease. Many hypochondriacs focus on a particular symptom as the catalyst of their worrying, such as gastro-intestinal problems, palpitations, or muscle fatigue. To qualify for the diagnosis of hypochondria the symptoms must have been experienced for at least 6 months.

The DSM-IV-TR defines this disorder, "Hypochondriasis", as a somatoform disorder and one study has shown it to affect about 3% of the visitors to primary care settings. The newly published DSM-5 replaces the diagnosis of hypochondriasis with the diagnoses of "Somatic Symptom Disorder" and "Illness Anxiety Disorder".

Hypochondria is often characterized by fears that minor bodily or mental symptoms may indicate a serious illness, constant self-examination and self-diagnosis, and a preoccupation with one's body. Many individuals with hypochondriasis express doubt and disbelief in the doctors' diagnosis, and report that doctors’ reassurance about an absence of a serious medical condition is unconvincing, or short-lasting. Additionally, many hypochondriacs experience elevated blood pressure, stress, and anxiety in the presence of doctors or while occupying a medical facility, a condition known as "white coat syndrome". Many hypochondriacs require constant reassurance, either from doctors, family, or friends, and the disorder can become a disabling torment for the individual with hypochondriasis, as well as his or her family and friends. Some hypochondriacal individuals completely avoid any reminder of illness, whereas others frequently visit medical facilities, sometimes obsessively. Other hypochondriacs will never speak about their terror, convinced that their fear of having a serious illness will not be taken seriously by those in whom they confide.


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