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How to Get Rid of Hypochondriasis disorder?


The term hypochondriasis is one of the oldest medical terms, originally used to describe disorders believed to be due to disease of the organ situated in the hypochondrium. Since then, the term has been used in many ways. It is now defined by DSM-IV and ICD-10 in terms of disease conviction and disease phobia. DSM-IV describes the condition as a

"preoccupation with a fear or believe of having a serious disease based on the individual interpretation of physical signs of sensations as evidence of physical illness. Appropiate physical evaluation does not support the diagnosis of any physical disorder than can account for the physical signs or sensations or for the individual's unrealistic interpretation of them. the fear of having, or belief that one has a disease, persists despite medical reassurance."

Hypochondriasis is characterized by severe anxiety over the possibility of having a disease. A person interprets physical symptoms and sensations as signs of a serious medical illness despite medical reassurance that they are not. Hypochondriasis and the other somatoform disorders are among the most difficult and most complex psychiatric disorders to treat in the medical setting.

Hippocrates used the term hypochondrium in the 4th century BC to refer to the anatomic area below the ribs. Later, the term hypochondriasis emerged to refer to the ill effects upon the psyche and soma of humors or fluids that emanate from the hypochondrium and cause disease. The term hypochondria is from the Greek - literally 'below the cartilage', referring to the lower ribs and the underlying spleen and liver. Its application to mental states comes from the theory of humours, relating moods to the liver and spleen. Similarly depression was called melancholia, literally black bile. Atrabilious - a favourite term of Carlyles - has the same meaning. Carlyle also uses 'spleen' to refer to his ill-health.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Edition ( DSM-IV ) defines hypochondriasis as the preoccupation with fears of having, or the belief that one has, a serious disease based on misinterpretation of bodily symptoms. In hypochondriasis, this preoccupation lasts at least 6 months and persists despite appropriate medical evaluation and reassurance.

The diagnosis is suggested by the history and examination and confirmed when symptoms persist for >= 6 mo and cannot be attributed to depression or another psychiatric disorder.

A person with hypochondriasis may be especially concerned about a particular organ system (such as the cardiac or digestive system). A doctor's reassurance and even a complete medical evaluation often will not calm the person's fears. Or, if it does calm them, other worries may emerge days later.

Hypochondriasis occurs most commonly between the ages of 20 and 30 and appears to affect both sexes equally. Some people with hypochondriasis also have depression or anxiety.

What are the symptoms of Hypochondriasis disorder ?

Physical symptoms that may be misinterpreted include borborygmi, abdominal bloating and crampy discomfort, cardiac awareness, and sweating. The location, quality, and duration of such symptoms are often described in minute detail, but symptoms usually do not follow a recognizable pattern of organic dysfunction and are generally not associated with abnormal physical findings. Examination and reassurance by a physician does not relieve the concerns of the patient, who tends to believe the physician has failed to find the real cause. Symptoms adversely affect social and occupational functioning and cause significant distress.

The main features of hypochondriasis disorders are:

  • Because of misinterpreting bodily symptoms, the patient becomes preoccupied with ideas or fears of having a serious illness.
  • Appropriate medical investigation and reassurance do not relieve these ideas.
  • These ideas are not delusional (as in Delusional Disorder) and are not restricted to concern about appearance (as in Body Dysmorphic Disorder).
  • They cause distress that is clinically important or impair work, social or personal functioning.
  • They have lasted 6 months or longer.
  • These ideas are do better explained by Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Major Depressive Episode, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Panic Disorder, Separation Anxiety or a different Somatoform Disorder.

Cause of Hypochondriasis disorder

A person suffering from hypochondria is preoccupied with physical health and has an unrealistic fear of serious disease well out of proportion to the actual risk. There is no specific cause of hypochondria, and it occurs in men and women with equal frequency.

Although the exact cause of this problem is unknown, stressful life situations may overwhelm a person and contribute to the development of generalized anxiety. A history of excessive worry may also be a predisposing factor in its development. Note that generalized anxiety may be exacerbated by excessive caffeine intake.

Prognosis of hypochondriasis

The course has not been well described but a 4-5 year follow-up by Barsky et al. (1998) shows that the condition is often persistent.

Hypochondriasis Treatment

A supportive relationship with a health care provider is the mainstay of treatment. There should be one primary provider to avoid unnecessary diagnostic tests and procedures.

Treatment with serotonin reuptake inhibitors, a class of antidepressants, may be effective.

Psychotherapy usually does not work well in treating hypochondriasis. Cognitive-behavior therapy may also relieve symptoms. Most people with the disorder are not eager to see a mental health professional. However, a savvy therapist can help the person to cope with symptoms rather than curing them. Doctors and therapists should take the physical symptoms seriously, because the symptoms are real.

The health care provider should inform the person that no organic disease is present, but that continued medical follow-up will help control the symptoms. The person with hypochondria feels real distress, so the symptoms should not be denied or challenged by others.

If the person has anxiety or depression that responds to treatment with medication, the prognosis can be quite good. Otherwise, a person with hypochondriasis may be susceptible to chronic distress and functional impairment.

See also Hyperventilation Syndrome

Facts and Tips about Hypochondriasis

  1. It is mental disease and person having hypochondriasis disorder believed that they have serious disease even though medical test show negative result.
  2. Normal body function or minor health problems are considered by patient of hypochondriasis as symptoms of serious disease.
  3. It generally begins in late childhood and ratio is same for both the sex and worry or fear lasts for at least six months.
  4. Hypochondriasis may result in depression, stress, impairment from social activity, problem in daily life or nervousness.
  5. Patients are not lying about their symptoms but they consider that they are sick. Even after medical examination they don't accept it.
  6. Supportive care, psychotherapy, medicines are used in combination to cure this disease.
  7. Symptoms of patient suffering from serious problems may be neglected because previously test show negative effect.

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