What is Hypochondria?
Illness anxiety disorder – which is better known as hypochondria, hypochondriasis or Health Anxiety Disorder – is considered to be a serious mental health issue, and is characterised by someone having an excessive preoccupation with having a medical condition or developing one in the future. In many cases the person in question may not have an illness at all, or if they do, their worry about the condition is considered to be excessive.
What are the symptoms of Hypochondria?
Everyone can become worried about their health from time to time, however Illness Anxiety Disorder presents as having an almost irrational fear of medical conditions and their own health. People suffering from the condition can become excessively worried when reading about potential illnesses, health problems with those they know or even strangers.
Symptoms and signs may include:
- Being unusually anxious about potential health issues in others or themselves
- Being worried about becoming sick and developing a long term illness
- Performing excessive health checks on themselves or those close to them
- Avoiding social or other occasions in order to protect themselves from getting ill. This can include refusing to visit hospitals or visiting sick family or friends
It’s important to remember that the anxiety and feelings of stress will not necessarily come from the physical symptoms of an illness, but rather from the fear associated with it. Normal stresses and strains of everyday life can make the symptoms worse, with the person becoming obsessive about medical problems. This high level of anxiety can cause strain on close personal relationships or can otherwise impact on their home or work life negatively.
How common is Hypochondria?
It is believed that Hypochondria or Illness Anxiety Disorder can affect between 1.3% to 10% of the population, with males and females equally affected.
What are the causes of Hypochondria?
As with many mental health issues, the exact causes of Hypochondria are not known from person to person. Sometimes a specific event can trigger the issue, but in general it can be caused by major ongoing stress or a history of childhood abuse. It is more likely to develop in early to middle adulthood, with symptoms varying in severity during this time.
Many kinds of mental illness can be worsened by other factors such as:
- A traumatic event such as a car crash or witnessing a violent death
- Witnessing the death of a loved one or close friend
- Being involved in someone else’s health crisis on a short or long term basis
It is more likely that people who exhibit signs of Illness Anxiety Disorder will be first seen by their general practitioner or other medical health facility, rather than in a mental health capacity. This will particularly be the case if they feel they need ongoing medical treatment or diagnosis for an illness or condition that may not actually exist.
Help for Hypochondria (illness anxiety disorder)
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