Hypochondria: How to Overcome It

December 7, 2022

6 min read

Introduction

Some individuals believe they have a severe but undiagnosed medical condition even when they are healthy. This state of mind or fear is a chronic illness anxiety disorder known as Hypochondria[1]. Those suffering from it spend sleepless nights thinking about an ailment that may have happened to them, resulting in stress and a disrupted quality of life.

What is Hypochondria?

Worrying about health is normal. However, when this concern becomes extreme and shapes into anxiety, when the affected person lives in a persistent fear of having a severe medical condition, despite diagnostic tests showing nothing wrong – it is Hypochondria[2]. The DSM-5 manual defines this ailment as a somatic symptom disorder[5].

According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), hypochondria or illness anxiety disorder is a steady and constant belief or fear that one has a severe yet undiagnosed medical condition. It is a chronic condition where the affected person stresses about their health to the point where the fear becomes impairing. 

Symptoms of Hypochondria

Hypochondria’s severity varies from person to person, depending on age, stress level, worrying behaviour, and tendency. Some of the most common symptoms of the condition are as follows:

  • The sufferer has a constant preoccupation with the thought of becoming seriously ill.

  • They treat minor symptoms as a possible root cause of a significant ailment.

  • They do not trust the treatment plan of doctors.

  • They obsessively dwell on the chances of acquiring a disease due to genetics.

  • They get tests done repeatedly to detect if there is any major illness.

  • They refrain from meeting people for fear of becoming infected.

  • They constantly worry about bodily functions such as heartbeat and blood pressure.

  • They exaggerate minor symptoms such as cough and cold.

  • They reach out to friends and family for reassurance regarding her health.

  • They browse the internet for symptoms and remedies.

How to deal with a person having Hypochondria?

Hypochondria or illness anxiety disorder [3]exists for real; it is not a myth. It significantly impacts the affected individual’s quality of life, relationships, well-being, emotional balance, and day-to-day functioning. 

Quite often, people dealing with a person with Hypochondria become irritated or judgmental about the latter’s thought process and behaviour. However, going the other way and acknowledging the suffering of the person with this condition could be helpful.

For example, instead of telling the affected person – they are fine and making things up for no reason, saying that you understand their problem can help them cope better. 

Or, instead of saying – they do not need a doctor because they have no disease, encouraging them to seek treatment could make them feel less anxious. 

Here are some tips to help you deal with a person with Hypochondria:

  • Learn about Illness Anxiety Disorder to help the person in need in the best possible way.

  • Talk with the affected person about this condition but make sure not to hurt their feelings.

  • Try convincing them and asking them not to worry excessively or research too much about the illness they think they have.

  • Ensure you do not feed their worry by asking them too much about their health.

  • Most importantly, be patient with a person with Hypochondria.

Do yoga and meditation help people with Hypochondria?

Many people seek refuge in yoga when stress and anxiety creep into their life. There are numerous reasons why people turn to yoga, and the benefits of yoga and meditation for physical, mental, emotional, and overall well-being are known to all. 

So, the question is – can yoga and meditation help people with Hypochondria or illness anxiety disorder? Yes! According to a recent study, practising yoga can help improve the signs and symptoms of many chronic anxiety disorders characterized by persistent fear, worry, and nervousness. 

Breathing and relaxation exercises coupled with meditation can help cope with several anxiety disorders, including Hypochondria. 

Here are some of the yoga poses that can help curb stress and anxiety related to Hypochondria:

  • Camel pose

  • Bridge pose

  • Butterfly pose

  • Hero pose

  • Fish pose

  • Seated forward bend

  • Standing forward bend

  • Child’s pose

  • Puppy pose (extended)

  • Bow pose

  • Corpse pose

  • Tree pose

  • Triangle pose

How to overcome Hypochondria?

While it is normal to feel worried about your health or a new symptom, Hypochondria makes people nervous and triggers a fight-or-flight response. It results in an adrenaline rush and makes them go into catastrophe mode and feel like – Oh, I am severely sick! However, there are multiple ways to overcome[4] Hypochondria. Read on to explore:

Think in perspective

Instead of entering a state of panic, people with illness anxiety disorder should try to get proof of their health and be logical with their perceptions. 

Evaluate the symptoms

Self-evaluate those seemingly fatal symptoms. On many occasions, this will allow the individual to understand that they are healthy.

Stop searching online

One of the best things people can do to themselves is to stop going to the internet to look for their symptoms. Even if most websites say – nothing is wrong, only one website suggesting a condition can send ‘I am sick signals’ to their brain.

Medical support

When not feeling well for whichever season, it is always a good idea to see a doctor. However, make sure to believe the doctor’s words and trust the process.

Seek professional help

If medications and other therapeutic processes do not help, a person with Hypochondria should seek professional assistance. One of the best treatments to cope with an illness anxiety disorder is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). This therapy is a blend of education and exposure, allowing the affected person to focus on facing their fears by letting them experience them. Some examples include – reading about diseases and going to a healthcare centre.

Conclusion

Although Hypochondria is a chronic mental condition, early medical and psychiatric intervention and a robust support system can improve the symptoms. These measures can maximize the odds of getting better with time. Moreover, it is crucial to follow up with the healthcare provider regularly. Reach out to United We Care for expert guidance on coping with anxiety. We are a leading online mental wellness platform.

References

[1] “Illness anxiety disorder (hypochondria): Symptoms & treatments,” Cleveland Clinic. [Online]. Available: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/9886-illness-anxiety-disorder-hypochondria-hypochondriasis. [Accessed: 17-Jan-2023].
[2] [Online]. Available: http://ttps://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/always-worried-about-your-health-you-may-be-dealing-with-health-anxiety-disorder. [Accessed: 17-Jan-2023].
[3] “Illness anxiety disorder,” Mayo Clinic, 19-Apr-2021. [Online]. Available: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/illness-anxiety-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20373782. [Accessed: 17-Jan-2023].
[4] K. Dold, “5 ways to reclaim your chill if you’re a hypochondriac,” Women’s Health, 16-Aug-2016. [Online]. Available: https://www.womenshealthmag.com/health/a19889739/overcome-hypochondria/. [Accessed: 17-Jan-2023].
[5] T. Newman, “Hypochondria: What is illness anxiety disorder?,” Medicalnewstoday.com, 24-Jul-2017. [Online]. Available: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/9983. [Accessed: 17-Jan-2023].

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