What is hypochondriasis and is it curable

hypochondria

Causes & Symptoms

What is hypochondria?

Fears of health (hypochondria) are characterized by the fear of suffering from a serious physical illness. Diseases are feared that could mean long illness and death. These include, for example, increased blood values, heart attacks or strokes, but also cancer, HIV infections or Creutzfeld-Jacob disease. These fears can occur temporarily, but they can also persist and then significantly reduce the quality of life. Patients with hypochondria are usually aware that the extent of their fears does not correspond to reality. They are often ashamed of it and try to keep their fears a secret from others. Frequent visits to the doctor and constant monitoring and reassurance that everything is in order are also typical.

Hypochondria: causes of a disease

Often there are events in the childhood and adolescence of those affected that have made it difficult or impossible to deal with physical complaints in a “healthy” manner. These events were highly emotional and related to illnesses and body symptoms. These include:
  • An anxiety-inducing parenting style: As soon as physical complaints arose, even if they were harmless, they were dramatized. As a result, the children had the subjective experience that body symptoms are (almost) always something bad and life-threatening.
  • a serious illness of its own in childhood and adolescence: Here, too, it was internalized that illness can mean separation from home and is associated with unpleasant feelings such as fears and sadness.
  • the serious illness of a family member: This often means that the illness was a central issue in the family and the child has concluded from this that illness is always something terrible and threatening.

The result is that the children take the following principles with them into their lives:
"Illness is always (life) threatening."
"Health is one hundred percent freedom from physical ailments."

The fears in adulthood are usually triggered by emotionally stressful events, such as a death in family or friends, or as a result of stressful times.

Hypochondria - symptoms: what symptoms do you experience?

Hypochondria occurs when the fear of illness determines life or affects the quality of life. Because of the stigmatization of health fears, many people do not dare to talk about it. Fears of health often occur together with a panic disorder, whereby in hypochondria the fear of the consequences of the disease in the near or distant future is in the foreground, in panic disorder the imminent catastrophe (example: heart attack).

Comorbid mental disorders

In connection with fear of illness, many patients experience other psychological disorders. Up to 40 percent are affected by depression, which can arise primarily but also as a secondary disease. Up to 20 percent suffer from so-called somatoform disorders, i.e. physical complaints without an organic cause.

The hypochondriac fears lead to illness behavior with physical rest, further visits to the doctor and examinations. Independent research on the Internet can further increase fears. Constant self-examinations and reassurance with family members and friends also have a short-term calming effect, but in the long term they intensify fears. There is no such thing as one hundred percent freedom from symptoms and the fear-free phases are getting shorter and shorter.

Diagnosis

Diagnosis: This is how we diagnose hypochondria

For the diagnosis it is indicative that the patients generally have had a large number of doctor's visits and have been organically clarified. There was no clear, further finding for the complaints and fears. In the case of hypochondria, the fear of illness is in the foreground, in the case of somatoform disorders, on the other hand, complaints for which there is no sufficient somatic explanation.

At the Schön Klinik, we address your individual fears and disorders during the diagnostic phase. The clinical diagnosis can be supported by specific questionnaires. Further physical examinations are usually not necessary, but can be arranged at any time if necessary. If it is necessary from a medical point of view, appropriate specialists are consulted.