Hypochondria, redefined as a disease in the DSM-V (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 2013), is a discomfort with the fear or the idea of having a serious physical illness, compromising significantly thoughts, feelings and behaviors.
The hypochondriac mind, constantly worried about a possible health impairment, might develop the belief that it has a serious, uninhibited disorder whose symptoms are generally mild and indefinite.
This state of alert, causing a high level of anxiety, produces individual control behaviors (repeatedly looking for signs of illness in your body) or disadvantaged avoidance (escaping from hospitals or medical visits).
Imaginary illness thus becomes a central element of the person’s identity, by defining the image of Himself in a totalizing way.
Concerns over having contracted a serious, excessive and disproportionate pathology do not respond positively to medical reassurance or to negative diagnosis, influencing decisively the daily lives of people suffering from it.
It is the awareness of their own difficulties, very often, to induce the hypochondriac to criticize and devalue for their own way of thinking and being, guilty and depressed in a significant way.
In order to understand this phenomenon, I will answer 9 common questions about hypochondria …
1) What symptoms characterize answer from disease?
Being hypochondriac means to be described by the following specific criteria …
- Concern about having or contracting a serious illness.
- Somatic symptoms are not present or, if present, are of slight intensity.
If there is another medical condition or there is a high risk of developing it, the concern is excessive or disproportionate.
- There is a high level of anxiety about health and a high level of alert on these issues.
- An individual exerts excessive health-related behaviors (such as constantly checking his or her body for signs of illness) or presents an avoidance that could damage his / her daily life (avoid medical and hospital visits).
2) What is diffused answer from disease?
Investigations about the rates of diffusion of hypochondria show a prevalence ranging between 1.3 and 10% of the population.
There are no differences between males and females in the presence of the disorder.
The onset is usually due to early adulthood.
3) When time is possible to diagnosis?
Concern for the disease must be present for at least 6 months, but the specific dreaded disease may change over that time.
4) Who is the Hypochondriac?
Anxiety for the disease raises its foundations on two central issues …
Perception of Self as Vulnerable: a self-image is interjected, characterized by fragility and weakness, themes around which the whole scaffold of one’s being is built.
Fear of death: The archaic fear of death is not tolerated by the individual, who will put in place behaviors and strategies aimed at controlling and the illusory power over their longevity.
5) How does hypochondriac work?
The hypochondriac person tends to misread physical symptoms by attributing them a potentially tragic and catastrophic value.
Attention, selectively oriented to “unusual” bodily sensations, will tend to capture all those vague and indefinite physical signals that could identify the symptomatology of feared disease, triggering a constant alert.
The “imaginary sufferer”, in a prudent and responsible manner, will put in place strategies aimed at preventing the disease and the potential of a possible contagion by structuring its existence in function of a malaise that it will never have to deal with.
The hypochondriac pursues the purpose of denying an image of Himself perceived by him and others as fragile and anxious.
6) What can the possible causes of this disturb?
The main risk factors associated with anxiety include …
- Interaction during childhood with a hyper protective parent and ready to send back to the child an image of self of weakness and vulnerability;
- Family Disease Experiences;
- Living with parental neglect;
- Interaction during childhood with hypochondria, anxious or alarming people;
- Serious illnesses during childhood;
- Stressful factors;
- History of abuse.
7) What typical bodies makes the hypochondriac?
Here are some strategies that hypochondriac people have, whose tendency may be to seek excessive assistance or to anxiously escape any form of medicalization …
- Obsessive internet research about your health;
- There is a need for reassurance by friends, relatives or doctors;
- Avoiding hospitals;
- Activating your state of alert in the face of another’s illness (seeing, hearing, or reading about severely ill people);
- Anxiety is only attenuated for a short period of time in the face of medical reassurance or negative diagnosis;
- Feeling not to be taken seriously by your social network.
8) What representations meet the answer from disease?
Each psychological problem drags with itself the different costs that the person is having to pay on a daily basis.
Here are some typically associated with hypochondria and the related need for special attention …
- Compromising your social image in terms of credibility;
- Family tensions;
- Nervousness in couple’s life;
- Work repercussions;
- Complications of everyday life (avoidance of sports or recreational activities);
- Decreasing the tone of mood and self-esteem.
9) What treatment is recommended?
Cognitive Behavioral Psychotherapy, in the light of various researches (Barsky & Ahern, 2004; Bouman & Visser, 1998; Taylor, Asmundson & Coons, 2005; Olde Hartman et al., 2009), is the most effective treatment for ‘Anxiety from illness’.
In a society that does not allow suffering, does not contemplate death and does not tolerate pain, the only panacea would seem to be the Holy Grail, a source of eternal life and lasting youth.
The hypochondria is gravitating to a fallacious desire for immortality, and it is ill to those who too want to escape the possibility of starvation.
Accepting that you cannot have full control over yourself, your life, and emotional relationships is a fundamental first-rate awareness to deal with hypochondria, a hissing, and intelligent enemy.