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What are the Treatments for Hypochondria?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 01 December 2016
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Treatments for hypochondria can include psychotherapy, medications, and patient education. As with many psychological problems, integrating friends and family into the treatment process can be beneficial, as these people can help the patient meet goals and also provide support. It may not be possible to completely resolve a patient's hypochondria, depending on the cause, but the patient can learn to live with it and may develop a number of coping skills.

People with hypochondria believe they have one or more serious illnesses. Sometimes they experience symptoms, or think they do, and they often have high levels of anxiety and worry. Seeing death or serious illness can stimulate hypochondria in a patient, and it can also develop in people with existing diseases, especially depression. Some patients talk constantly with friends and family and engage in extensive disease research, while others may be secretive about their fears, worrying about dismissive comments.

Psychotherapy for hypochondria can include regular talk therapy to discuss fears and their origins, and develop coping skills. Cognitive behavioral therapy is a common choice, as it can provide the patient with tools for working through anxiety and fear beyond the clinician's office. Patients may need to try several therapeutic approaches before they find one that works for them. Some people need to plan on attending long term psychotherapy, although the intervals between appointments may become longer with time as they adjust and starts to experience benefits.

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Sometimes, a patient may receive medications, usually at the direction of a psychiatrist. High anxiety levels can be an issue and taking drugs to reduce anxiety may help patients with their hypochondria treatment, especially in combination with therapy. Other patients benefit from drugs to treat depression. These prescriptions may relieve brain imbalances contributing to stress and anxiety, and help patients distinguish between real and imagined symptoms and medical issues.

Patient education is another important component. A health care provider can work with a patient to talk about hypochondria and how it works, and provide patients with tools for differentiating between different sources of anxiety and managing them appropriately. Friends and family can also benefit from education to help them interact with the patient. They may be taught about supportive techniques they can use to help people with hypochondria, ranging from agreeing to be a phone buddy to talk to when someone is feeling anxious, to following a script to help a person process worries in a safe and supportive environment.

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Discuss this Article

aLFredo
Post 13

Prescription drugs and weekly therapy has helped me tremendously with my anxiety. I really do feel as though my brain chemicals are more balanced now that I take a prescription drug.

Now that I take prescription drugs I have less anxiety and less worry. My thoughts are more clear now. I can discern the difference between reality and fiction a lot better now. I can actually live a fairly "normal", happy life now, which is amazing.

Therapy sessions twice a week also help me to lower my anxiety and stress.

My therapist helps me realize on my own what is real and what is fake. When I can not figure out what is real versus what isn’t

, my therapist helps me realize that it will be okay to be uncertain of some things and to give myself the benefit of the doubt.

I honestly look at my therapist and my close family and friends as my guardian angels, because they really do guard and guide me through life’s most uncertain terrain.

Speechie
Post 12

I have had both talk therapy and cognitive behavior therapy and I believe in my case, and most other people's cases, cognitive behavior therapy has worked better for me. Cognitive behavioral therapy is when you face whatever you fear.

It seems to help a lot more to face one's fears, than to just talk about what your fears are. Of course talking about your fears is better than nothing though. It is just that actions do seem to speak louder than words. But if you aren’t to the point where you can face your fears, definitely at least try to talk about them with a professional who cares.

I think that the action of facing your fears really sends a stronger message to your brain and your heart that you can overcome whatever your fears happen to be. Really I think that everyone should face their fears on a regular basis, it really is a liberating thing to do.

Misscoco
Post 11

Hypochondria can be mild and sometimes temporary, but when a person's anxiety about imagined illness interferes with their functioning, they need help. The constant worry about diseases they think they have or worry they may get, can lead to serious depression.

A friend of mine has a daughter with this condition. She calls in sick too often. She is always going to the doctor to check out her "symptoms." She really believes she is sick, even though the doctor says she's fine. I wonder if her insurance company will become suspicious. I hope her mother can talk her into getting some therapy soon.

Bertie68
Post 10

I kind of think that some cases of hypochondria start in childhood. If a child's parents are constantly warning him about germs and what can happen if he doesn't wash his hands twenty times a day, he can gradually develop unhealthy anxiety.

I have a cousin who had parents like that and as a young adult, she became very worried about her state of health. She never talked about any physical symptoms, but was just always worried about diseases she would get if she didn't take care of herself. She seemed to outgrow the problem as she got older.

poppyseed
Post 9

I have often thought to myself that the more folks hear about a particular sickness, or even small ailment, the more likely they are to develop it themselves.

I’ll use my husband as an example. It never fails that if I have a body part hurting – let’s just say my wrist – that within a day or so his will be killing him. Even if I don’t dwell on it, he’ll be dying in wrist agony in no time at all.

He actually was convinced that he had some sort of sweetener poisoning from drinking a couple of diet drinks at work because his coworker suggested it.

But he isn’t the only one. As soon as my mom

saw some commercials about children developing whooping cough, she flipped because both of my children had colds.

I don’t mean a little anxious sort of flip; I mean like a ten-score worthy set of Olympic backflips, summersaults and cartwheels.

Sometimes all it takes is a suggestion, and everybody you know is suddenly dying! How do we tell the difference between whether it’s hypochondria, paranoia or just overexposure?

nanny3
Post 8

You know what? I have often wondered if I have hypochondria myself! I do have some anxiety issues, and have been prone to depression throughout my adult life. However, these events have always been ‘triggered’ by a life altering event.

I suppose you could say that I’ve seen quite a bit of death and sickness in my personal life, and that makes me very cautious.

For instance, my mother has been ill constantly since I was a junior in high school. I’ve often been her caretaker. Now, I’m almost thirty-two.

She hasn’t gone more than one year without a major surgery of some sort.

I’ve lost an aunt to an odd form of cancer; another to an

odd assortment of diseases, including an autoimmune disease and hepatitis. I found my grandmother immediately after she died of a heart attack, watched her be resuscitated and then witnessed her as a vegetable.

I can honestly say that all of this has affected me. I try not to flip out over small things, but I’m very protective of my children – maybe too much so. Every little thing with them really upsets me because I am terrified of their getting hurt.

I keep it under control, normally, on my own due to a lack of funds for anxiety treatment and prescription drugs. It’s hard to say, though, whether it’s hypochondria or just pure natural instincts that make me this way.

LisaLou
Post 7

@honeybees - If your coworker pursues treatment, I think she would need to check with her insurance company first.

When it comes to psychotherapy, you want to know ahead of time what kind of treatment your insurance will cover.

Sometimes it is best if you are referred by another doctor, but every policy is different.

The last thing you want is to receive ongoing treatment, and find out later that you aren't covered when you thought you were.

honeybees
Post 6

I think I have a coworker who has hypochondria. She is always worried and has a lot of anxiety symptoms all the time.

She constantly talks about all of her problems and is always online researching what she thinks is wrong with her.

I really don't know if she has ever seen anyone professionally for this or not. It seems like she does a lot of self diagnosing and treating.

This really does affect her work and productivity and she has a hard time holding down one job for very long.

I think it would be very helpful for her if she saw someone about it and received some kind of professional help. I know that the people who work with her get kind of tired of hearing about it all the time.

I am wondering if this is something you would see your regular family doctor about, or go to a psychiatrist first?

Monika
Post 5

I actually think the amount of access most people have to information really contributes to hypochondria. Not to say that it's a bad thing that we're able to learn about so much stuff. But I feel like I hear about a new disease or health issue every other day!

I don't have hypochondria, but even I start to get a little anxious after I hear about some of this stuff on the news. I can only imagine how someone who actually had hypochondria feel after hearing about all these crazy illnesses. Sometimes I think it would be better to just not be so informed.

indemnifyme
Post 4

@KaBoom - Glad that works for your friend. She may still want to seek counseling in case her relationship with her boyfriend doesn't work out.

I have both hypochondria and anxiety and I went to counseling for it a few years ago. It actually helped me a lot. I suffer from panic attacks too (sometimes precipitated by my thinking I have some horrible disease) and the counseling helped that as well.

My therapist suggested medication, but I wanted to hold off and see if just going to counseling would be effective. It was, so I never took medication.

KaBoom
Post 3

I have a good friend who has hypochondria. Her case is fairly mild, and doesn't interfere with her life too much. She never got around to getting counseling for it though, she just kind of dealt with it on her own.

She's been much better over the last few years, and here's why: her boyfriend is an EMT. He's familiar with the symptoms of a lot of different illnesses and whenever she starts freaking out over some disease, he can tell her she doesn't have it. She trusts his opinion because he's a trained medical professional, and he would tell her if he thought she needed to go see a doctor.

popcorn
Post 2

@drtroubles - If your father does indeed have hypochondria I see no problem about bringing up your concerns with his doctor. I know when my aunt was diagnosed with hypochondria that we had to get our family doctor involved because it isn't really something a person would seek help for on their own terms.

As far as treating hypochondria goes I really hope that your family doctor will refer your father to a professional who is familiar with dealing with this kind of anxiety disorder. Hypochondria can cause a lot of problems in families. I know our aunt ended up upsetting a lot of people when we were all under the impression that she had leukemia.

drtroubles
Post 1

My believe my father has numerous hypochondria symptoms, such as serious anxiety caused by the idea that he has some terrible disease he heard about on the news. There isn't a day that goes by where he doesn't call to bring up some medical condition he is sure he has. At first we were really worried about him because we feared that he did indeed have cancer or diabetes, but the more we learn about the symptoms of hypochondria, we suspect that may be his real issue.

How would you suggest that we go about getting my dad treatment? Do you think we should tell his doctor outright what we are worried about?

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