What is hypochondriasis disorder? Hypochondriasis is a type of phobia, although it is actually classified as a somatoform disorder, and a hypochondriac is a person who develops an irrational fear that their symptoms, no matter how minor, are the sign of some terrible undiagnosed disease.
Symptoms of the disorder can occur at any age, but it tends to be most common between the ages of twenty and thirty.
What is Hypochondriasis Disorder are What are the Symptoms?
Hypochondriacs tend to be hyper vigilant about their body. The slightest twinge or ache is immediately attributed to an underlying disease or illness, so headaches are the result of a brain tumor and stomach pains are surely caused by a life threatening disease.
The patient might spend hours researching various illnesses on the Internet, or they might compulsively check their symptoms to the point where the imagined illness begins to negatively impact on their everyday life.
Unfortunately, the disorder is a self-fulfilling prophesy and the more the patient worries about their minor symptoms such as headaches and general aches and pains, the more likely they are to experience them, even if extensive medical tests indicate that absolutely nothing is wrong.
Some hypochondriacs bore their friends and families rigid with tales of their latest symptoms. They visit the doctor on a regular basis and demand extensive tests in order to seek reassurance that they are not dying from a hideous illness.
The other type of hypochondriac develops a phobia of doctors and refuses to seek medical advice because they are deathly afraid their worst fears will be validated.
This is arguably the most serious aspect of the condition since such patients may delay or avoid seeking treatment for illnesses and put their health at risk as a result.
What Causes Hypochondriasis?
The causes of hypochondriasis are not really understood, but there is a strong relationship between the symptoms of hypochondriasis and anxiety disorders such as depression and obsessive compulsive disorder.
The disorder can also be triggered by a death in the family or a period of extreme stress in an otherwise healthy person. Research has also indicated that having a parent or sibling with OCD can increase your risk of developing hypochondriasis.
How is Hypochondriasis Diagnosed?
In order to be diagnosed with hypochondriasis, the patient must show signs of an irrational preoccupation or fear of having a serious illness based on a misinterpretation of physical symptoms.
The symptoms must have been present for at least six months and persist despite a lack of evidence pointing to any signs of ill health.
What Treatments are Available for Hypochondriasis?
Cognitive behavioral therapy has been shown to be helpful in the treatment of patients suffering from the symptoms of hypochondriasis as it can help them learn to manage their fears and anxieties, which in turn helps to diminish the symptoms.
Antidepressants can also help patients suffering from the disorder and clinical trials have shown that drugs such as Prozac and fluoxetine increase the levels of serotonin in the brain, causing a reduction in symptoms.