Hypochondriasis (Hypochondria) – Definition, Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

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Hypochandria statistics show that 1% out of 14% of health problem patients is suffering from Hypochondria while approximately 10 – 20 % of healthy individuals also suffer unfounded worries with regards to illnesses. What is more intriguing is the fact that

Hypochondriasis disorder can begin at any age and may inflict both male and women. At present, the US government alone is spending more or less $20 billion each year just for the unnecessary medical examinations and procedures brought about by Hypochondriasis disorder.

Hypochondriasis Definition

Hypochondriasis is a type of somotoform disorder which is characterized by the strong belief that a he or she is inflicted with a serious medical condition even if in reality that is not a fact. It is also referred to by some medical practitioners as health anxiety hypochondriasis because of the severe worry it brings to the patient leading to his inability to efficiently function at work and even at home.

Hypochondriacs

Patients who suffer from this somatization disorder are referred to as hypochondriacs. More often than not, hypochondriacs will consult one doctor after another just to assert their belief. They are very persistent it will not tire of going from one doctor to another just to prove that their belief is true.

Hypochondriacs are not pretenders. They are so certain of the fact that they are severely sick that even their very own physician finds it very difficult to appease them. In the end, they simply refer to a different doctor in hope that they will hear the pleasant news that they are indeed sick.

Hypochondriacs often associate their illnesses with cardiovascular failure, stomach cancer, gastrointestinal abnormalities, muscle fatigue and palpitations. They arrive at this conclusion due to preconceived ideas brought about by misinterpreted physical symptoms which they tend to exaggerate just to affirm their belief that they are suffering from a very serious illness. Hypochondriacs are very pitiful and may often experience criticism and ridicule even amongst their own family members. Nevertheless, their problem does not lie within their bodily functions but with their mental health. Anyone who has this somatization disorder should readily be assisted otherwise hypochondriasis will ruin the entire life of a person.

Hypochondriasis Causes

Until now, medical practitioners find it difficult to know the exact cause of hypochondria but here are the possible reasons for this type of somatization disorder.

  • Inability to express his or her emotions
  • Possibility of sexual or physical abuse
  • Inherited susceptibility to somatoform disorder
  • Significant member of the family who shows similar hypochondriasis disorder symptoms

Other hypochondriasis causes may also include family upbringing and stressful events which the patient may have experienced in the past that remained unresolved up to the present or it may also spring-out of a person’s desire to be cared for and nurtured since such activities are mostly attributed to sick persons. Causes of hypochondria may also be death of a significant person due to a severe disease which may have left a huge mark in the psyche of a person.

Hypochondriasis (Hypochondria) Symptoms

The symptoms of hypochondria are strongly related to symptoms of somatoform disorders. As earlier stated, hypochondriasis is a somatoform disorder so it is very natural for us to find a lot of similar symptoms of somatoform disorder amongst hypochondriacs. Below is a list of some typical hypochondria symptoms :

  • Frequent change of doctors
  • Frequent request to have his vital functions checked
  • Frequent request to undergo medical tests for the possibility of growing tumors or developing ulcers
  • Obsessive focus to health
  • Dissatisfied perception with medical care
  • Excessive concern over human diseases which affects his work, social and family life
  • Excessive concern over minute symptom of illness which is exaggerated as a possible symptom of a more serious complication
  • Fear of staying inside the hospital
  • Obsession to have second medical consultations or examinations
  • Belief that doctors provide wrong diagnosis of a particular ailment
  • Impossibility to be dissuaded even by the most recent and most precise type of medical technology which will disprove his claim of a disease
  • Ease of associating himself with recent disease outbreak

Risk Factors Involving Hypochondriasis

One of the hypochondriasis facts which is unattested is the identification of the following list of risk factors which hastens a person’s chance of developing hypochondriasis disorder symptoms.

Family History Which Involves Hypochondriasis

One member of the family may have exhibited similar hypochondriasis disorder s symptoms which were unconsciously adopted by a person.

Sickliness As a Child

The possibility of developing hypochondriasis is greater when a person experienced a long time experience inside a hospital due to a serious illness. This may develop health anxiety hypochondriasis to the child which is soon exhibited when he or she grows older in life.

Recent Stressful Even

This includes death of a special person in his life. The pain and stress may be too much to handle that his or her only way of coping up with the loss is through hypochondria.

Complications Triggered by Hypochondriasis

Hypochondria as a mental disorder may indeed trigger more complications in an individual’s health and lifestyle. A few of these are as follow:

Social Problems

  • Strained relationships especially with health providers because of frequent consultations and unnecessary medical examinations
  • Work or school problems due to the inability to function efficiently
  • Financial difficulties caused by rising medical costs
  • Relationship difficulties because of frequent fights and arguments relating to his or her alleged medical attention

Personal Problems

Depression

Since patients desire of confirming their belief that they are seriously ill yet find no sufficient medical fact to support it, he or she may soon resolve to drug or alcohol abuse. His or her frustration may be too much to handle that he or she may refer to peace of mind and ease through these bad habits.

Anxiety Disorders

If at the beginning the patient is indeed not inflicted with stomach cancer or ulcer, he or she may soon discover that he or she is suffering from one. This is not to say that the diagnosis of the medical practitioners in the past are wrong but it may be brought by extreme anxiety resulting to lack of appetite and motivation to pursue his or her daily activities.

Excessive Anger and Frustration

Since patients need to vent-out their frustrations over not finding the perfect doctor who will declare that they are sick, even if they aren’t then you may find these individuals easily angered and frustrated. This leads to more fight and misunderstandings even with the immediate members of his family and his loved one.

What is the Right Time to go to a Doctor ?

In as much as these hypochondriacs transfer from one doctor to another, they seldom find it necessary to consult a psychologist with regards to their condition. Since this is the case, friends and relatives who suddenly notice several hypochondria disorder symptoms appearing in the daily activities of a person whom they love should try their best to convince them to have a short chat with a psychologist or psychiatrist. You may need to do a lot of convincing to force him or her to see a psychiatrist or psychologist but this is the best gift you may ever give him or her.

Diagnosis of Hypochondriasis

Those who successfully realize that they do need to ask the help of a medical practitioner with regards with their health anxiety hypochondriasis should expect the following procedure for diagnosis.

  • Review of the patient’s medical records.
  • Analysis of the patient’s physical examination results.

This includes measuring the vital signs of a patient which includes his heart rate, temperature and blood pressure, height and weight measurement, listening to the patient’s heart and lungs as well as abdominal examination. In as much as hypochondriacs are one of the problem patients medical practitioners face each day, they can never be too sure about a person’s physical health so all of these primary physical examinations becomes very much necessary.

  • Psychological Evaluation

A small chat with a psychiatrist or psychologist which involves the patient’s thoughts, behavioral patterns and feelings is necessary to help certify if the patient is a hypochondriac. Queries like when the symptoms started and how he or she suddenly felt it, the severity of the pain which the patient experiences every time the illness occurs, the effect of the illness to his work or school performance and similar episodes in the past may be used. This will be based on his or her assessment of the patient’s behavior and attitude which can further be confirmed through a personality assessment.

  • Laboratory Tests

To have a formal confirmation of the diagnosis, laboratory tests like blood count, thyroid function and alcohol or drug screening may also be required.

If after all of these series of tests are conducted and you met the symptoms criteria contained in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) then you will officially be diagnosed as a hypochondriac.

Hypochondriasis DSM IV Criteria

Hypochondriasis DSM includes different types of preoccupations. These set of DSM hypochondriasis are as follow:

  • Preoccupations with the fear of having a serious diseases based on misinterpretation of certain body symptoms
  • Preoccupation which remains in persistence amidst medical evaluations and reassurances
  • Preoccupation which results to impaired social and occupational performance
  • Preoccupation which lasts for a minimum of six months
  • Preoccupation which is not accounted for by any of the following types of disorder: separation anxiety, panic disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, and other types of somatoform disorder

Once your doctor sees signs of this Hypochondriasis DSM IV then you will need to drink the prescribed medications which will be given to you.

Hypochondriasis Treatment

Treatment for Hypochondriasis may be categorized into three: supportive care, medication and psychotherapy. In as much as there may be alternative treatment for hypochondriasis, a combination of two or more of these hypochondria treatment may be sufficient in helping treat hypochondriacs.

Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy for hypochondriasis is seen by most practitioners as the most effective tool to cure hypochondriacs thus is considered the primary treatment for hypochondriasis. CBT or cognitive behavioral therapy is normally the form of pyschoteraphy for hypochondriasis that is given to patients suffering from this condition. This approach helps patient recognize and stop their wrong belief and may even use exposure therapy just to help patients get rid of their health anxiety hypochondriasis.

Supportive Care

Psychotherapy for hypochondriasis this will never be successful without the help and assistance of the immediate members of the family. Most of the time these patients experience this somatization disorder simply because they desire the love of their parents. So it is best if the entire family will envelope the patient with love and understanding rather than criticize his or her every move. Thus, it is vital that even the family members undergo psychological counseling so they may know what the patient is feeling towards them.

Medication

Treating hypochondriasis is quite tough. In as much as doctor do their very best just to provide effective treatments of hypochondriasis, hypochondria treatments may still require patients to take a few anti-depressants and anti-anxiety drugs like serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) like fluoxetine (Prozac), paroxetine (Paxil), and fluvoxamine (Luvox); and tricyclic anti-depressants like imipramine (Tofranil) and clomipramine (Anafranil). These hypochondria treatments and medications are necessary especially if the patient is experiencing mood and anxiety disorders.

Alternative Treatments for Hypochondriasis

Treating hypochondriasis using drugs is discouraged because of the negative side effects these drugs may bring to your body. So instead of using any of the above prescription drugs you may wish to try the following alternative treatments for hypochondria.

Acupuncture

This is known as the most effective oriental treatment approach. It involves very thin needles which are inserted in specific areas of the body that will soon help in regulating the body’s balanced and harmonious flow of energy, which is referred to as “qi”. Attainment of the body balance is important for hypochondriacs because it will help them in reducing several symptoms of emotional stress, regulating of the patients sleeping patterns, relieving of the patients current fears and apprehensions, as well as improving the patient’s over-all energy.

Massage

This approach is typically preferred even by healthy and fit individuals because of the relaxation it brings to the body. Nevertheless, some massage therapists are also aware of the proper techniques which will help relieve stress therefore lessening the symptoms of hypochondriasis.

Homeopathic Hypochondriasis Treatment

You may also use this type of alternative medicine in treating hypochondriasis. You may use the following highly diluted preparations to help relieve yourself from health anxiety hypochondriasis.

Aconitum

This should be taken to help relieve you of your sense of fear and panic. This is recommended to patients who constantly fear that they will soon experience death.

Arsenicum Album

This is also provided to help reduce your anxiety caused by fear of dying. These is perfect for hypochondriacs who would often call their doctors because of their extreme worries.

Lycopodium

This is the remedy for general fear and anxiety. This is given to hypochondriacs who complain of stomach problems.

Phosphorus

This is also a remedy for anxiety but is given to patients who always latch on the fears of others but can easily be reassured.

Herbs Treatment for Hypochondriasis

Certain herbs may be as miraculous as you may desire them to be and can provide you with the perfect herb treatment for hypochondriasis.

St. John’s Wort

The standardize extract of this herb, which is approximately 300 mg, taken one to three times daily will help relieve you of your depression.

Kava Kava

The standardized extract of this herb, which is more or less 100 to 250 mg, may also be taken once to thrice a day to help reduce the symptoms of anxiety and stress.  Nevertheless, do not attempt to use this herb for long periods of time because FDA has seen possible liver problems associated in drinking this herb.

Relora

A dose or three of these will help eliminate stress as well as adrenal insufficiency in the body. For those who remains unaware of the content of relora, it is composed of two Chinese herbs namely Phellodendron amurense and Magnolia officinalis, which is used to provide stress and relaxation. Nevertheless, never drink one if you plan to take long drives because one of the side effects of this herb is drowsiness.

Green Tea

This is the universal beverage used for almost all types of disorder. It contains a large amount of anti-oxidants which helps raise the level of your immune system.

Hypochondriasis Home Remedies

If you wish to further help yourself in treating hypochondriasis then you may follow this final set of advices and recommendations.

Learn More

Keep the desire to learn intact in your heart and mind. Find ways for you to understand your condition more and more. In this way, you will soon discover that it is easier to accept that you are really not sick but healthy.

Identify Your Warning Signs

Try your best to discover the factors which trigger your healthy anxiety hypochondriasis. In this way, you will be forewarned of possible attacks of hypochondria.

Be Physically Active

Refrain from staying inside the comfort of your house. Learn how to use your muscles. Enroll in a fitness center. Go out with friends. Learn to socialize through sports activities like swimming, jogging, walking, gardening or taking a stroll at the park. Find something that you will enjoy doing and stick to it.

Avoid Alcohol and Drugs

The least of the things which you may with to get involved with is drugs and alcohol. If you feel so distressed and frustrated over your condition, it would be better to drink a few of the above mentioned herbs or watch a movie or chat with friends and relatives rather than vent all your frustrations in drugs and alcohol. It will not do you any good but may even worsen your condition.

Most important of all, you should listen to your doctor’s advice and prescriptions. Learn how to appreciate the number of years which he or she has sacrificed just to finish his studies and help others become healthier. Be honest to them and inform them of any doubts you may have so you will have a better relationship with them.

References :

http://www.psychiatrist.com/pcc/pccpdf/v02n04/v02n0402.pdf

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC181122/

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