What Is Hypochondria?
Types of Hypochandria
There are two basic types of hypochondria, which are care-seeking hypochondria and care-avoidant hypochondria. People who have care-seeking hypochondria may be more willing to go to the doctor than other people, often with specific concerns related to their disorder.
On the other hand, people with care-avoidant hypochondria are generally much less likely to seek medical care for their supposed conditions and may even avoid care when they have very real and very severe symptoms.
What Are The Causes Of Hypochondria?
Hypochondria Risk Factors
Risk factors for developing hypochondria include things like having had a severe illness previously, having a history of trauma or abuse, having a genetic predisposition toward anxiety disorders, or having another mental health disorder like OCD or generalized anxiety disorder.3
However, risk factors and the actual cause of the disorder may be two different things. People can develop hypochondria at any point in their lives, though it’s often caused by a stressful or traumatic event.
Symptoms of HypochondriaLike most anxiety disorders there are a relatively wide range of symptoms for hypochondria, some of which are directly related to the disorders and some others that are signs of more generalized anxiety that often comes with hypochondria. Here are some of the most common symptoms of hypochondria that you should know: 4
- Fearing normal functions or minor setbacks
- Regularly talking about illness
- Frequent doctor visits
- No relief from test results
- Avoiding the doctor
- Being regularly worried about your health status
- Frequently searching the internet for health information
- Getting so distressed by possible illness that it interferes with daily life
- Frequently performing body checks to look for signs of disease
Hypochondria Risks and Causes
Like many other anxiety disorders, hypochondriac anxiety can be caused by a wide range of potential situations and may be reactive to both internal and external risks. It’s important to understand that not everyone with hypochondria will have all of these potential risks. You may personally only have one or two of these, while some people with hypochondria may have many.
If you suspect that you might have hypochondria but aren’t in treatment already, you may want to skip this section, as reading about the potential risks and causes for hypochondria may add more to your existing hypochondria fears.
Internal causes are things that happen inside your body that cause hypochondriac anxiety. They can range from things like having a runny nose or cough to feeling physical pain. Hypochondriac pain may be caused by a wide range of conditions, and in some cases may even be psychosomatic, which is when you’re convinced that something is wrong, so your nerves start producing pain that matches.
Almost any physical symptoms of health problems or physical discomforts like hunger or thirst may be an internal cause, especially if they are new or unexpected.
External risks for hypochondriac symptoms may be anything that causes higher levels of stress or anxiety but are most likely to be medically related. For instance, watching hospital-drama shows like House or The Good Doctor could cause hypochondriac symptoms, even if the person experiencing them had no previous signs of the disease or disorder being discussed on the show.
Being around sick people or in medical settings may also lead to hypochondria causes, even for care-avoidant hypochondriacs. Care-avoidant hypochondria might be particularly anxious by being in medical situations, even if they aren’t being treated.
How Is Hypochondria Diagnosed?
Hypochondria is typically diagnosed with a combination of evaluating symptoms and ruling out other possible diagnoses. For instance, hypochondria shares a lot of symptoms in common with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), but the two disorders have very different therapeutic treatments.
Since OCD tends to be the broader and more generally disruptive disorder, it needs to be ruled out before a hypochondria diagnosis is made. Your doctor may recommend you be evaluated for anxiety if they suspect you may have hypochondria based on your symptoms, but a true diagnosis of hypochondria usually needs to be made by a licensed therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist.
Types Of Therapy For Hypochondria
There are a few different options when it comes to hypochondria treatment, and you may need to try a few different treatments before you find what works best for you.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Cognitive behavioral therapy is used for a wide variety of disorders. It may be appropriate for people who have both hypochondria and another mental health disorder, or for people who have complex reasons behind their hypochondria.
Bibliotherapy relies on books, poems, and other forms of media as a therapeutic approach. Certain pieces of media may also be used as a grounding technique or a way to de-stress at the moment. It can be used in combination with other therapeutic approaches.
Behavioral Stress Management
This gives patients more tools and techniques to directly manage their stress levels and intervene in anxious or harmful thought processes. It may be used on its own or as a way to help stabilize patients dealing with extreme stress or anxiety before moving on to other therapeutic techniques.
Sometimes the most helpful thing is hearing from other people in a similar position and talking to them about their experiences. This kind of therapy can be done on its own or in combination with other therapies and offers both therapy and a sense of community for participants.
How To Deal With Hypochondria
There are a few ways to deal with hypochondria on your own while you look for or are in treatment for the disorder. Most importantly, don’t research symptoms. While being medically informed is usually a good thing, looking up specific symptoms can give your mind a lot more information to make you anxious or to make you think you have specific diseases.
You should also look for support from friends, family, or local support groups that can help you deal with your fears and keep you grounded. Lastly, you should talk to your doctor about what you’re feeling and your concerns. They’ll be able to recommend more treatment options and local solutions that can help you feel better and recover from or manage this disorder.
Get Help for Hypochondria At Soledad House
Soledad House provides women-centered care in a safe place away from outside stressors and causes for your hypochondria. Since hypochondria affects more women than men, it may be especially helpful to work through the worst symptoms of this disorder and start on the path to recovery in a women-only group.5
We offer a wide range of therapeutic techniques and programs for women, and we’re certain that we can offer appropriate treatment for your needs, whether you have hypochondria on its own or are also dealing with other mental health or substance use disorders. Contact Soledad House to learn more about our treatment options, how intake works, and why we focus on providing a space of healing specifically for women.
- 2 https://www.medicinenet.com/what_makes_a_person_a_hypochondriac/article.htm
- 3 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK554399/