What is Health Anxiety?
Health Anxiety or Hypochondria is a psychopathological condition that affects many people, characterized by the presence of frequent obsessive thoughts about having a serious illness, where a person imagines having symptoms of this disease, that is, he misinterprets the presence or absence of minor pathological symptoms and attributes them to serious physical illnesses, despite the doctors ' attempt to convince him not to have any disease.
What is the difference between normal anxiety for health and hypochondria?
When a pathological symptom is felt, it is normal for a state of public health concern to occur and therefore it is necessary to consult specialists. In the normal case, anxiety and fear will disappear when the medical confirmation that there is no serious illness, but in the case of hypochondria, the sufferer is under the constant belief that he has multiple symptoms or symptoms of a very serious illness, and this anxiety may be so severe that it prevents a person from practicing his normal life, going to work, or completing his academic studies, and affects his social and family relationships as well.
What causes people to develop health anxiety?
Many causes can lead to the development of hypochondria and vary from person to person in the following we have tried to summarize the most common causes:
- Misunderstanding of some minor symptoms stemming from a lack of knowledge about diseases, their symptoms, and causes leads to the continued belief in the existence of a serious medical condition, and then the sufferer continues to look for symptoms of the disease to confirm his belief.
- The presence of a family member with the same pathological obsessions.
- Having a history of serious childhood illness leads to misinterpretation of all minor symptoms for fear of repeating what happened in the past.
- The presence of a psychological or work stress situation.
- Having symptoms that are believed to be serious but after a medical examination, it turns out that the disease is not serious.
- Having a history of psychological and physical violence in childhood.
- Having an anxious personality.
- Constantly use the internet to search for certain disease symptoms.
The condition of hypochondria usually begins in adolescents and increases with age. It is concentrated among the older ones because they believe that there are memory problems.
Symptoms of Health AnxietyIn general, common symptoms of anaphylaxis include the following:
- Fear and extreme anxiety of getting sick.
- Frequent visits to doctors of various specialties.
- Frequent research on medical conditions, their pathological symptoms, and means of diagnosing them.
- Preoccupation with the disease to a degree that affects the patient's life, hindering his daily life activities.
According to the American Psychiatric Association, individuals with hypochondria, also known as illness anxiety disorder, may exhibit the following symptoms:
- A strong belief of having a serious illness: Hypochondriacs have an unwavering conviction that they are afflicted with a significant medical condition, despite minimal or no medical evidence supporting their belief.
- Overemphasis on minor or non-specific symptoms: Hypochondriacs tend to focus excessively on even the slightest bodily sensations or ambiguous symptoms, often interpreting them as indicative of a severe illness. Alternatively, they may overlook clear evidence that contradicts their health concerns.
- Heightened anxiety about specific illnesses: Hypochondriacs experience intense anxiety and worry regarding a particular illness they believe they have or are at risk of developing. This concern might be linked to an illness they observed in a family member or a condition they have encountered in the past.
The patient's insistence on unnecessary examinations such as:
- Examine the body for diseases again and again.
- Search for various pathological symptoms using the internet.
- Avoid visiting a doctor to avoid being diagnosed with a serious illness.
- Pathological anxiety persists for at least six months, and the disease that the sufferer thinks about during this period may vary.
How is health anxiety diagnosed?The doctor usually conducts intensive examinations to make sure that the patient is free from the diseases that he believes he has, and then the infected person is referred to a mental health specialist. The specialists do the following:
- Assessment of mental health through multiple questions related to the symptoms that the patient believes he has, the occurrence of stressful conditions, or going through a similar medical history.
- The patient is asked to fill out a form with general questions about mental and physical health.
- Ask the patient about the medications he is taking, and about taking alcohol.
How is health anxiety treated?
PsychotherapyIt is the most important treatment for hypochondria, especially what is known as cognitive behavioral therapy, as this treatment is effective because it helps the sufferer control the symptoms of anxiety and fear.
There are many benefits of this treatment:
- He recognizes the general fears of the patient.
- It teaches the patient new ways of dealing with anxiety and disorders by expelling negative thoughts.
- Increase public awareness about the harms of constant anxiety and its impact on a person's life and those around him.
- The body responds to symptoms and sensations differently.
- Avoid checking the body frequently for diseases, and look for positive thoughts about being healthy.
- Increased activity at home, school, or workplace, increased sociability.
- Ensure that you do not have other mental illnesses such as depression or bipolar affective disorder and others.
There are other methods of psychotherapy, including stress management training and exposure therapy, but in some severe cases, the symptoms persist despite psychotherapy, and here the sufferer needs to be treated with medications.
One of these drugs is a very effective antidepressant. The patient may have other mental illnesses, so the treatment of these diseases may lead to an improvement in the condition of hypochondria automatically.
The decision to take medications to treat hypochondria should be made after discussing with the doctor, as many of these drugs carry many side symptoms.