Hypochondriasis is a mental illness wherein an individual is preoccupied with the fear of having or the idea of having a serious disease. It involves the misunderstanding of bodily symptoms. The sensations of most hypochondriacs are intense and disturbing, leading to incorrectly connecting the symptoms to a serious disease. It said that hypochondria is caused by a patients excessive worrying with having or developing a disease. Often these patients seek medical attention, but a doctor’s reassurance does not help the situation. Hypochondriacs will still think they are sick no matter what the do. Generally, patients who suffer from hypochondriasis also suffer from anxiety. There are many effective treatments for hypochondriacs such as drugs, support groups and therapy. This paper will discuss the diagnosis, cause and effect of the hypochondriasis.
Hypochondria is an unsupported belief or anxiety over having a serious disease that is based on personal interpretations of bodily symptoms. The patient usually misinterprets bodily sensations. Anxiety and persistent reports of symptoms involving any body part is a good indicator the patient might suffer from a somatization disease or hypochondriasis. A patient’s symptoms might change from each visit, but the person’s belief that a serious condition exists does not. The patient’s symptom complaints may shift from being very specific to very vague. Sometimes they might think that they have a form of cancer and other times that might just have a stomachache. Hypochondriacs have an extensive medical history. They often seek medical assistance, but a Doctor’s reassurance has no merit for the patient. A patient, who is preoccupied with bodily sensations for less than six months, are classified as having a somatic disorder. If the complaints persist, the patient is then labeled as a hypochondriac.
There are many causes for a patient to be a hypochondriac. When a hypochondria learns of a new disease and its symptoms, he/she excessively worries that they have or developing the disease. Attention can intensify a bodily sensation. By watching medical shows, a person can connect bodily sensations felt with a disease described on the show. The misinterpretation of the bodily sensations is what causes a patient to be a hypochondriac. Hypochondriasis might also be caused by anger deep within a person. Rather than letting their anger out towards people, a person turns their anger into physical symptoms. The life of a hypochondriac is usually unhappy and depressive. A hypochondriac will fell hopeless and have a lack of interest in life. Lastly, hypochondria can be triggered by a previous illness experienced or by a relative’s sickness. Someone who was treated with cancer might be more preoccupied with bodily sensations and will connect them to a disease. Hypochondriacs have a fear. They fear that they will be struck with an illness. There are many causes why a person becomes a hypochondriac and most being psychological.
Many treatments are being discovered to cure hypochondriacs. Since often hypochondriasis is associated with anxiety, a cognitive-behavioral model was created to show the development of the illness and show how to treat it. In this treatment, patients are taught how to identify and correct their misinterpretations of bodily sensations. Once the patient has identified the sensation felt, he or she must then construct a more realistic interpretation and modify their assumptions. Each patient was educated concerning the meaning of sensations. Another way to treat hypochondriasis is that of attention. Rather than the patient focus on bodily sensations, diverting their attention to pleasant memories or events may help them overcome the illness. A study conducted attempted to prove that distraction significantly reduced any levels of discomfort. The outcome of the study showed that distraction did not change a patient’s pain intensity. Although distraction was unsuccessful, a correlation between distraction and temperature was noticed. At temperatures of 46C or less, patients experienced lower levels of pain intensity. Any temperature above 46C, the patients showed higher levels of pain. Since many hypochondriacs are constantly fixed to pain perception, diverting their attention is almost impossible. Hypochondriasis can be treated using two other methods, psychodynamic and psychopharmacological. Psychodynamic treatment occurs when a patient wants to transform himself or herself. The psychodynamic perspective views hypochondriasis because of a childhood injury, whether it being an early trauma or negative parenting. In order to treat the traumatic patient, the psychodynamic method relies on verbal and non-verbal communication between the patient and therapist. From communication, a therapist tries to uncover hidden conflicts that lie within the patient. According to therapists, for the treatment to be effective, it is recommended that the patient be met with 1-3 times a week for five years. The other method is the psychopharmacological. Prozac is a drug that is also known as selective serotonin reuptake blockers. Prozac is often prescribed to depressed and OCD patients. Now the drug is being used to treat hypochondriacs, alcoholism, anxiety a study headed by Dr. Brian Fallon at Columbia University tested the effect of Prozac on hypochondrial patients. His study concluded that 70% of the patients who took daily doses of Prozac showed improvements after 12 weeks and some were completely free of the illness.