Hypochondria and Anxiety: A Match Made in Hell

by Stephen Joseph

A person suffering from Hypochondria has an excessive preoccupation with having a serious illness. Any slightly abnormal physical symptoms are magnified and treated as a serious threat to health and even life. Even when the hypochondriac gets an all-clear from the doctor, they are still likely to fear the worst and doubt their doctor’s diagnosis.

Hypochondriasis is a form of anxiety disorder and in many cases mirrors Obsessive Compulsive Disorder in the way the sufferer is obsessed over their health. Even small things such as an itchy nose, slightly irregular bowel movements, a small sore or a mild headache can leave the hypochondriac in a state of fear, panic and dread over their health.

The loss of sleep, worry, bodily tension and disruption of eating habits caused by the health concern then creates extra anxiety, which in turn fuels the whole vicious cycle over again, making the Hypochondria worse.

Some people who suffer from Hypochondria tend to focus on just one or two areas of the body. For example, a person may have had a family member die of a heart attack, thus becoming obsessed that their otherwise healthy heart is about to give in. Small chest pains caused by indigestion or stress, that anyone else would gently ignore, bring about horror in the sufferer. They would however ignore an aching leg or a cold sore.

Figures for the number of people suffering from Hypochondriasis varies, due to the absence of clear statistics on the matter. However, experts estimate that up to 8% of people in the United States suffer from one form of Hypochondria or another.

It also has to be made clear that everyone in their lives worries about their health. However, in the majority of cases, this is a passing concern that does not impede on their everyday lives and certainly doesn’t keep them awake at night in cold sweats. To be diagnosed with Hypochondria, the sufferer has to have been showing the symptoms for 6 months or more and causes clinically significant distress and disturbance in the person’s social, occupational and functional aspects of their lives.

Hypochondriasis can manifest itself in a variety of ways and each person’s case is different from another. Most sufferers first experience the symptoms of Hypochondria in the 20s and it affects men slightly more than women, although only very marginally. Some sufferers constantly visit their doctor or local hospital through fear of being seriously ill, whilst other sufferers avoid medical practitioners altogether due to a terror of being diagnosed with something bad. In their mind, it’s best to not know at all, yet still suffer from the symptoms.

Most people who suffer from Hypochondria are not aware that the anxiety and depression which usually coincide with the condition also provide negative symptoms of their own. These then cause extra concern in the hypochondriac’s mind. A racing heart, excessive sweating, insomnia, tiredness and muscle tremors, which are all symptoms of anxiety, might well be construed as an oncoming heart attack, stroke or disease.

Like with all anxiety disorders, Hypochondria frequently comes about after a traumatic event or stressful period. However, the condition can be overcome and be consigned to the past. There are a number of techniques on offer these days which can guide the hypochondriac to a new way of dealing with the problem, without the need for medication.

One of these solutions is the Linden Method, which I think is the best one (from personal experience) and which I’ve reviewed here: The Linden Method.

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