Hypochondria, also known as illness anxiety disorder, is an anxiety disorder that causes someone to obsess about their health. Any change or the slightest pain can make a hypochondriac think they’re getting sick or developing a disease. It can become so overwhelming that they experience physical symptoms, but these symptoms are typically a result of anxiety overdrive.
A hypochondria may fear for their life and struggle to leave home because they’re scared of illness. They become so convinced that something is wrong with them that they disrupt their lives, careers, and relationships. Their anxiety will disrupt the lives of those around them, too.
Hypochondria is a long-term mental health condition, but the severity fluctuates. When the person experiences high-stress levels in their lives, it’ll be worse than when things are going as smooth. Sometimes, the condition worsens with age.
If you or someone you know constantly complains about illness, injuries, and other health problems, it could be hypochondria. Frequently talking about health and worrying about developing conditions and diseases are sure signs. Experts have studied this condition and made it easier for us to understand.
What is a Hypochondriac?
The American Psychiatric Association recognizes hypochondriasis as an anxiety disorder. When a hypochondriac experiences uncomfortable health sensations, they tend to be fear-based rather than indicative of a real ailment.
Some psychiatrists diagnose hypochondriacs with somatic symptom disorder because the focus on their physical symptoms can disable them. Someone with this condition might experience pain, dizziness, constant worry, and other symptoms that cannot be linked to a medical condition.
Hypochondria causes a preoccupation with illness and assume everything means they have a medical problem. For example, if the person’s stomach rumbles, their mind will jump to cancer or Crohn’s disease rather than using the restroom or eating.
Do you suspect that you are dealing with hypochondria? Know these eight hypochondriasis symptoms.
1. You Are Regularly Checking Yourself for Any Signs of Illness
People with hypochondria analyze their bodies for signs of injury or illness every day. Sometimes, their anxiety becomes so severe that they do body checks multiple times a day. Tiny bruises or lesions that most people overlook are identified and scrutinized right away for someone with hypochondria.
Their constant body checks force their mind to be more aware of subtle changes within their bodies. While this could be a good thing, it turns out to be all-consuming for those with hypochondria. Plus, they might become so convinced that something is wrong that they repeatedly ask for a doctor to check it.
Minor issues will cause them to spiral, and they will likely panic when they think something is amiss. They might even monitor their vitals at home, repeatedly checking even when everything is fine.
2. Making Frequent Visits to Your Doctor
If you’re a hypochondriac, you likely make many doctors visits. Even when your physician says you’re healthy, you continue to worry and continue going back. After a few visits, you might even find a new doctor to take a look at you.
When you fail to get a diagnosis, you continue looking for doctors until you find one to validate your concerns. This process can be lengthy and expensive as doctors continue to give tests and rule things out. Even with health insurance, you will still have out-of-pocket costs, and some diagnostic tests may not be covered.
If you don’t let go of the health worry even after a doctor says that you’re fine, you might have an anxiety disorder instead. Lacking trust in medical professionals won’t ease your anxiety, and you’ll continue looking for answers that aren’t there.
3. Always Talking About Their Health and Possible Illness
Constantly complaining to your family and friends about your health is a sign of hypochondria. Likewise, constant discussions about diseases and ailments are signs, too. Most people don’t want to talk about health problems all of the time, as it isn’t an enjoyable topic.
It indicates a toxic mindset, and your loved one could start to avoid you because of it. Your loved ones will try to be supportive at first, but they’ll eventually realize that they can’t help you. You might be looking for reassurance from them but turn it down when they offer it.
Even when you try not to talk about it, you will likely notice your conversations turn to health anyway. When you suffer from this anxiety disorder, you subconsciously look for ways to alleviate your fears.
4. You Are Not Convinced by Your Negative Medical Test
When you think something is wrong and see your doctor about it, you might not believe them when they say nothing is wrong. They’ll send you for diagnostic tests, and even when the results are negative, you aren’t convinced.
Being unconvinced with negative medical tests is what often leads to seeking a new doctor. When the next doctor discovers the same results, you might look for a third doctor. The process continues, and you will continue racking up bills for medical tests that all come back negative.
You might also push for further tests when you don’t get the results you expected. While getting a second opinion and advocating for your health is encouraged, hypochondriacs go too far.
Anytime you experience a minor symptom, you might think the cause is something serious. If this is the case, it could be that you are a hypochondriac. It will seem that nothing is minor, and every symptom results from a life-threatening but undiagnosed disease.
An occasional headache might make you anxious about a brain tumor, or muscle aches might make you think you’re suffering a stroke. Even if you don’t think specifically of tumors or strokes, you might overthink the situation and convince yourself that something is going on.
If your mind immediately going to the worst-case scenario, it could be a sign of underlying anxiety. Your body changes, and you will experience discomfort sometimes, but it doesn’t always mean that something serious is wrong.
6. Avoiding People and Places for fear of Getting an Illness
A sign of hypochondria is when you avoid people and places because you’re afraid to catch an illness. Researchers from the Harvard Medical School found that hypochondriac patients exhibit avoidant behaviors, resulting in a lower quality of life.
Sometimes, you might avoid places that remind you of illness. These places would include hospitals, locations where you’ve been sick, or where you have seen others be sick. Your obsession might become so severe that you can’t watch movies or shows that have sick people in them.
When when you feel fine, you’ll experience anxiety about future illnesses or injuries. Constantly being on alert and focusing on every sneeze isn’t a good sign. It could interfere with your daily life and relationships.
7. Excessively Researching the Internet for Possible Symptoms or Illness
If you find yourself searching the internet for your symptoms and possible causes, it’s a sign of hypochondria. You might search for minor symptoms and see it on a list for something more serious, and then that sends you into a panic. Then, you might start thinking that you have some of the other symptoms on the list, even if you hadn’t noticed them before.
This health obsession might turn into researching other medical conditions, too. If you start reading the symptoms of health issues you’ve never considered before, you convince yourself you have them. When you do this, you add more worry and anxiety to what you are already experiencing.
8. Stressing Too Much About Possible Illness Affecting Your Activities of Daily Living
One of the biggest signs that you might be a hypochondriac is allowing your health anxiety to interfere with your daily life. The fear and worry can become so consumed that it takes over their life. It can hinder your ability to work in a professional setting, function daily, and maintain fulfilling relationships.
Your hypochondria might prevent you from attending important events, leaving you with regret and your loved ones upset. You miss out on opportunities, and you watch everyone else experience life without you. Even when you realize you are missing out and still can’t convince yourself to do things, it’s a drastic sign of hypochondria.
Next let’s look at how to stop being a hypochondriac.
Seeking professional therapy can help you overcome hypochondria. Talking to a therapist about your worries can help you work through them, and they can offer a new perspective.
Some herbs can bring peace and calm to your body. Try using lavender, chamomile, or peppermint to alleviate your anxiety.
Practicing meditation can help you be present at the moment as you engage in rhythmic breathing. You can meditate anywhere, as long as you have a quiet space, which can help you no matter where you are.
Eat a Healthy Diet
Proper nutrition can help heal your mind and body, making you feel better and giving you energy. Changing your eating habits can reduce anxiety, too.
While there is no cure for hypochondria, you can manage your symptoms. If you think you are a hypochondriac, start making beneficial changes in your life. Talk to a medical professional to see what they advise, and get all of the help you can.
Once you can quiet your health fears and reduce anxiety, you can start to live your life again. Let go of the worry that consumes you and begin finding positive things to fill your life instead.