Hypochondria is an anxiety disorder where you are constantly worrying about your health. The slightest pain or twinge in your body can make you think that you’re getting sick or even going to die. There may be physical symptoms, but most of the time, it’s your body’s anxiety that’s in overdrive.
People with a mental health condition known as hypochondria will often seek out many health care providers determined to find out what’s wrong with their bodies. Even though they go through routine medical examinations and a battery of tests, there are no verifiable diseases.
The slightest muscle twitch can send a hypochondriac into overdrive. They may fear for their life and be unable to leave their home or function because they are sure something is wrong with them. The severe distress of this condition can disrupt your life and the lives of those around you.
Hypochondria is a long-term condition, though it will fluctuate over time with severity. During times of high stress in life, this disorder kicks into overdrive. Some find that their fear of developing a medical condition increases as they age.
Thankfully, the use of psychotherapy proves to be beneficial in easing worries and developing effective coping mechanisms.
The American Psychiatric Association doesn’t recognize hypochondria as an illness. Instead, they define it as an anxiety disorder. The DSM-5 or Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders once considered hypochondriasis a mental illness, but now they believe it’s a symptom of an underlying anxiety-based concern.
Folks who received a diagnosis under the old DSM-5 as a hypochondriac will now be reclassified to meet current criteria. These uncomfortable sensations are fear-based rather than an indication of a medical ailment in the body.
Some psychiatrists may choose to diagnose the condition as a somatic symptom disorder, which involves the focus of the physical symptoms and their disabling nature. Someone who has this mental health issue may have pain, dizziness, or constant worry, which cannot link to any other medical condition.
Symptoms of Hypochondria
If you are a hypochondriac, then you have a preoccupation with the notion that you are ill. If your stomach rumbles, an average person would consider that they need to use the bathroom.
However, the person with an anxiety disorder may feel that this is an indication that they have stomach cancer or Crohn’s disease. Here are the official symptoms of hypochondria:
- A preoccupation of their health and the development of a severe disease
- Distressing over trivial signs or bodily feelings
- Always worried about your wellbeing
- Obtaining no assurance from physicians or tests about your health
- Fretting unreasonably over a specific medical ailment
- The anxiety of developing a medical disease leaves you unable to function
- You are continually examining yourself for symptoms of a disease.
- Regularly making doctors’ appointments for comfort — or dodging medical treatment due to the fear that they may find a severe illness.
- Dodging individuals, areas, or events due to the fear of the health risks involved.
- Incessantly discussing your wellbeing and potential ailments.
- Regularly exploring the net for origins or signs of a possible disorder.
Defining the Risk Factors
Anxiety disorders are troubling and not apparent to the mental health community. However, they believe that a person with anxiety can’t tolerate or accurately interpret their bodily sensations. Another factor is genetics.
It’s believed that when parents have anxiety disorders that they often pass them to their children. A parent that is a hypochondriac may also pass this trait onto their offspring, and some things can be learned behaviors.
Though genetic links are essential, it isn’t definitive. A person may have been through a traumatic medical experience as a child, and worries from that event plague them through their adult life.
Anxiety disorders are on a broad spectrum, and a person who already suffers from anxiety is at an increased risk of becoming a hypochondriac. Additionally, this condition is often seen in a middle-aged person, but it tends to worsen with age.
It’s very prevalent among the older population as the fear of developing dementia, or Alzheimer’s becomes a real threat. Some common risk factors that have been observed are as follows:
- Major life stressors with no effective coping mechanisms
- Having a history of serious medical issues
- Being physically, sexually, or emotionally abused as a child
- Growing up in a home where parents were severely ill
- A worrier by nature
- Obsessed with looking up illnesses on the internet
Difficulties of Having Hypochondria
When one person in the home has an anxiety-based disorder and is a hypochondriac, the entire family will suffer. Excessive worrying can harm relationships and frustrate those around you. You may also have the following issues:
- Relationship issues due to the constant state of panic
- Excessive absences from work or other events
- Performance issues on your job
- The inability to do things like keep your house clean or drive – can result in disability.
- Financial turmoil because of medical bills and prescriptions
- Being diagnosed with other mental issues like depression, somatic symptom disorder, and even a personality disorder.
Once your physician has exhausted all medical testing, they will look to the DSM-5 for a diagnosis. The first course of treatment is to use antidepressant medications. Though these medications are widely used, they are not without side effects.
Antidepressants are not habit-forming, but you can’t quit them cold turkey. Since these substances alter the brain’s chemicals, they can be dangerous—another commonly used medication class as benzodiazepines.
Drugs like Ativan, Xanax, Klonopin, and Valium are widely prescribed with caution. These prescription drugs are highly addictive and can cause drug-seeking behaviors. Thankfully, there are many natural remedies that you can use to treat your hypochondriac behaviors.
Counseling or psychotherapy seems to be one of the best ways to combat an anxiety disorder. Most hypochondriacs have a long list of worries in their life and need someone to talk to about them. Talking through your troubles can help you to release them as well as put them into perspective.
Getting an objective opinion on things in your life can be helpful. Cognitive-behavioral therapy has proven to be very helpful in treating anxiety-based disorders, and it’s widely used alongside medications.
Sadly, counseling doesn’t work overnight and isn’t going to bring fast relief to someone whose anxiety keeps them up at night, but herbal treatments can help.
2. Herbal Treatments
Some herbs and vitamins can bring calm and peace to the body. Some of the most widely used for anxiety include lavender, chamomile, peppermint, ashwagandha, Ginkgo Biloba, l-theanine, valerian root, b-complex, and kava.
Herbs and vitamins have fewer side effects and have great results. St. John’s Wart has often been compared to the antidepressant Prozac.
Nature provides many benefits to those who need help in combating anxiety and other mental illness issues. However, it may take some trial and error to find the combination that works best.
Meditation is an Eastern medicine practice that has made its way to the Western world. By taking time out from your hectic day to meditate, you can change your entire life. Some people have cured their anxiety by only learning to be present at the moment and engaging in rhythmic breathing.
You can feel an immediate release of your anxiety when you meditate. The great thing is that you can meditate at work, in your car, or at home. Whenever you feel your anxiety levels rising, you can use breathing and meditation to calm things down.
4. Eat a Well-Balanced Diet
One of the best ways to heal your mind and body is through proper nutrition. Many people consume a diet that is filled with processed and junk foods, and they are malnourished. Your body needs fruits and vegetables to thrive.
Changing your eating habits can change your life. Many people say that when they start on the Keto diet that they have instant clarity, and their anxiety lessens. The body is not made to eat all the highly processed and fast foods offered in this country, and it’s no wonder the obesity epidemic is reaching epic proportions.
Though there is no cure for hypochondria, you can effectively manage your symptoms. There’s no reason that you must live your life in fear. You can learn to control the anxiety and worry that rules you.
Once you learn to stop the voices that tell you that you are going to die or you are sick, then you can learn to live a productive and life free of the chains of crippling anxiety.