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.
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.