The fear of getting sick is normal for anyone. Considering the wide variety of diseases and medical conditions that have been identified to date, statistics show that annually some diseases maintain constant rates in different sectors of the population.

People must take care of themselves and for this they use different resources that guarantee them to maintain good health . That is why there are treatments and medications that have been specially designed to deal with certain diseases. Maintaining a good diet that includes diversity in food, consistent exercise regimen, and a calm pace of life are just some of the other measures.

However, some individuals may develop an obsession with maintaining good health. In these cases, concern for health makes these people perceive any physical change as a negative sign. As a consequence, behaviors that are compatible with hypochondria are detected, then we delve into this topic.

What is hypochondria? 

Hypochondria is a type of psychiatric disorder in which the patient believes that he or she has a serious or fatal illness, and also expresses fear of contracting a disease. This condition generates obsession in people when looking for resources or techniques that allow them to guarantee good health.

People who are hypochondriacs often show exaggerated behavior when they perceive a symptom that has never been seen before. This extreme worry is directly related to the fear of suffering from some disease. In the same way, they will try to go to the doctor for consecutive periods of time, in fighting any measure that makes them feel more calm in relation to their state of health.

There is a constant and methodical monitoring of all symptoms or signs that can be identified as unusual. All these elements are considered indicators of the suffering of a possible serious illness, however this perception may be unreal or imaginary. In the same way, they can condition themselves to suffer symptoms that only they can describe and feel, so in some cases it will not be possible to verify it through medical tests.

What are the characteristics of hypochondria? 

An accurate diagnosis requires the evaluation of a trained medical professional . Due to the complexity of this condition, the psychologist in charge must not only be based on the concern expressed by the patient, but other criteria must also be taken into account.

One of the first is to interpret the patient’s symptoms in terms of suffering or contracting a disease, these must be studied in the most objective way possible. In the same way, their persistence and the constant search for medical advice can additionally limit the limits of normality.

The belief of having symptoms of a disease or being prone to eventually developing one, in some patients manifests itself through hallucinations . That is, it is not only limited to the belief of said condition, in some cases patients may begin to feel physical manifestations such as pain in particular areas of the body.

In the same way, the concern caused by one’s own health can generate difficulties on the emotional, social and work level. These people experience high levels of anxiety and stress , consequently the duration of the symptoms can extend for several months.

The important thing is to understand that hypochondriacs have extreme and constant concern about their health. In some cases, they could begin to self-medicate and in the same way perform medical exams without the support of a professional. Unlike other psychiatric disorders, these people do not invent symptoms because they actually experience and magnify them.

They will always pay attention to any change in their body , any symptom or sign will be enough reason to create an obsession. From headaches, palpitations, muscle aches and even skin lesions; all of these are just some of the symptoms that manifest the most.

Another way to diagnose it is to realize that these symptoms are described in a generalized way , they are considered vague and also are not precise in terms of the severity with which they affect the patient. Also, these usually appear for short periods of time, but eventually reappear when concern is felt again.

It is also important to mention that these people are suggestible and vulnerable to the opinion of other people. If they receive a negative comment or perceive that they are not believed, it is reason enough to be suspicious of any medical help that can be provided.

What are your causes? 

This is a condition that falls within the classification of anxiety disorders , the concern that patients express in relation to their health will create important consequences in mental health. Because they perceive an unrealistic fear of contracting a serious illness, they often face difficulties in leading a normal life.

People who are prone to developing this phobia usually have a history of physical symptoms that affected them markedly. In the same way, any past condition which has been difficult to overcome, in the future will be used as a reference to take greater caution and care in regard to personal health.

Suffering from other disorders makes these people more likely to suffer from this condition. Similarly, a history of physical, psychological or sexual abuse has been observed as a possible cause . According to the statistics made in patients who fit these characteristics, they eventually develop greater vulnerability in their mental state due to abuse.

Also within the field of psychology the hypothesis is handled that hypochondria is the result of the expression of internal conflicts . This means that the individual feels mistrust of their environment and how it can negatively affect it. Also the mind of these people can respond and defend itself.

From a psychological and social perspective, this condition can have its origin in a learned behavior that is acquired by observation. These people feel insecure because they perceive potential dangers in the environment and their surroundings.

So hypochondria works as an unconscious mechanism to ensure protection , although it could also be a mechanism to attract attention. In the latter case, some patients feel the unconscious and involuntary need to be constantly cared for.

It is criminally important to mention those cases that have their origin in previous harmful experiences . Having lived closely the illness of a close person that eventually ended in death. These events automatically trigger negative thoughts in people.

What is your treatment? 

To treat hypochondria , a multidisciplinary approach is usually applied . This means that the treatment must take into account different aspects of this condition. Hypochondriacs often suffer from anxiety, low self-esteem, and a vulnerable mental state. Psychiatrists will need to provide tools that allow patients to stabilize.

In some cases it is possible to use drugs such as antidepressants and anxiolytics. Some doctors may prescribe selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors such as paroxetine and citalopram for example. However, this medication must be administered under strict medical supervision due to the condition of these patients. It is also possible to use placebos to help calm them.

Cognitive behavioral therapy is very common in these cases. Professional therapists consider that it is one of the techniques that offers the best results, for this the patient is made to face their own fears in order to change their behavior eventually. For example, you will be instructed to try to cut down on doctor visits, self-medication, obsession with tracking symptoms, and also accept the fact that human beings are prone to illness.

For this treatment to have the expected results, it must be applied for a long period of time and constantly. You must also have the help of the social environment, family and friends , who understand and participate in these therapies. Similarly, these same people must learn information in relation to this condition.

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Alexa Clark specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. She has experience in listening and welcoming in Individual Therapy and Couples Therapy. It meets demands such as generalized anxiety, professional, love and family conflicts, stress, depression, sexual dysfunction, grief, and adolescents from 15 years of age. Over the years, She felt the need to conduct the psychotherapy sessions with subtlety since She understands that the psychologist acts as a facilitator of self-understanding and self-acceptance, valuing each person's respect, uniqueness, and acceptance.

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