Health Anxiety Disorder

Health Anxiety Disorder, formerly called Hypochondriasis and commonly referred to as Hypochondria, is a mental health condition wherein an individual has an intense and persistent preoccupation with having, or developing, a serious medical illness.

Individuals may experience extreme anxiety that normal body sensations are associated with a specific, severe illness. This excessive anxiety results in severe distress that becomes disabling.

Symptoms of Health Anxiety Disorder

  • Preoccupation with having or getting a serious disease
  • Excessive worry that minor symptoms or body sensations indicate a serious illness
  • Finding little or no reassurance from doctor visits or negative test results
  • Worrying excessively about a specific medical condition because it runs in your family
  • Distress about possible illness impairs day-to-day functioning
  • Repeatedly checking your body for signs of illness or disease
  • Frequent medical appointments for reassurance, or avoidance of medical care for fear of being diagnosed with a serious illness
  • Avoiding people, places or activities for fear of health risks
  • Frequently searching the internet for causes of symptoms or possible illnesses

Risk Factors for Health Anxiety Disorder

The exact cause of Health Anxiety Disorder is not fully known, but several factors — including personality, genetics, and environment or experiences — appear to contribute to its development.

  • Genetics: Having parents or other family members with Health Anxiety Disorder can increase the likelihood that a person will develop the condition.
  • Environment / Experiences: Trauma and stressful events may contribute to Health Anxiety Disorder. The condition also may become worse during periods of stress.
  • Other Mental Health Disorders. A person who has depression or other anxiety disorders may be more prone to Health Anxiety Disorder.

Treatment for Health Anxiety Disorder

Psychotherapy, sometimes referred to as “talk therapy” or counseling, is a vital component of treating health anxiety disorder. There are a variety of specific psychotherapeutic approaches that can be explored in the treatment of health anxiety disorder, including:

Medication does not cure health anxiety disorder but can help relieve the symptoms. The types of medications used to treat the symptoms of health anxiety disorder include:

  • Anti-Anxiety Medications
  • Antidepressants

Every individual will react to various medications in their own way, and several different medications, or combinations of medications, may be tried before finding one that improves symptoms with manageable side effects.

If you or someone you know is experiencing any of these symptoms and wish to seek treatment for Health Anxiety Disorder, please contact me for an evaluation.

Also see Anxiety Disorders & Therapy »