Hypochondriacal: Definition, Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

Also called hypochondriasis, “Anxiety for health” or “Anxiety of disease” is best described as the obsessive and irrational fear of having a serious medical condition.

Hypochondria is based on the mistaken interpretation of symptoms by an individual, and exists despite medical confirmation that the individual does not have a disease.

Hypochondria goes beyond normal health concerns and can seriously affect academic and professional functioning as well as interpersonal relationships.


The symptoms of hypochondria / health anxiety vary widely from person to person. Some examples of common obsessions that are seen are:

  • Thinking that a headache is indicative of a brain tumor.
  • Believing that a cough should be a sign of lung cancer.
  • Assuming that a minor chest pain is a heart attack.
  • Thinking that a minor sore is a sign of AIDS.

Some common examples of observed compulsions include:

  • Multiple visits to the doctor, sometimes on the same day.
  • Multiple medical exams, often for the same suspected condition.
  • Repetitive exams of the body to detect symptoms of a supposed medical condition.
  • Repeatedly avoiding contact with objects or situations for fear of exposure to diseases.

It is estimated that 4-6% of the population has clinically significant hypochondria. In addition, recent research suggests that up to 10% of all visits to primary care physicians may be due to hypochondriacal fears.

As demonstrated above, it has numerous obsessive-compulsive characteristics that are quite similar to those of OCD . An essential difference between the two conditions is that those with OCD often fear getting sick, while those with hypochondria fear having a disease.

Perhaps the most significant similarity that unites OCD and hypochondria is the cyclical process by which the symptoms of both increase.


The person usually feels physical sensations either because his mind creates them or because the sensations are there, but he notices them and experiences them worse than others.

It is very difficult for someone who experiences many physical symptoms and does not know why to simply forget about them. They make a person feel sick and make the person worry about being sick, which in turn triggers anxiety, more symptoms and more worries.

Because all physical sensations are genuinely felt, they can not be easily ignored. Just like you can not tell someone with a mosquito bite to stop biting, you can not tell someone to stop noticing the pain and discomfort.

For all these reasons, hypochondria can be very difficult to control without help. However, there are ways in which you can reduce the symptoms of hypochondria and your anxiety and make them easier to manage, which in turn will help you learn to control them.


Because of these many similarities, the same techniques that are so effective in the treatment of OCD are also used in the treatment of hypochondria.

In fact, recent research studies at Harvard University and the Mayo Clinic have found that CBT is the most effective treatment for hypochondria.

The primary CBT technique used in the treatment of OCD and hypochondria is a type of cognitive-behavioral therapy called Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP).

Another technique that is extremely valuable is called “Cognitive Restructuring,” in which clients learn to challenge the validity of their distorted health-related thoughts.

In addition, a variant of ERP has been developed that has also been found to be extremely effective for the treatment of hypochondria / health anxiety. This method, called imaginal exposure, involves writing short stories based on the client’s health obsessions.

These stories are then used as ERP tools, allowing the client to experience exposure to feared situations that can not be experienced through traditional ERP (for example, getting cancer or AIDS).

When combined with the standard ERP for the compulsions mentioned above and other CBT techniques such as Cognitive Restructuring, imaginal exposure can greatly reduce the frequency and magnitude of intrusive obsessions related to health.

As well as the sensitivity of the individual to thoughts and mental images experienced in hypochondria.

The main objective of CBT based on mindfulness is to learn to accept uncomfortable psychological experiences without criticism.

From the perspective of mindfulness, much of our psychological distress is the result of trying to control and eliminate the discomfort of unwanted thoughts, feelings, sensations and impulses.

In other words, our discomfort is not the problem, our attempt to control and eliminate our discomfort is the problem.

For a person with hypochondria, the ultimate goal of mindfulness is to develop the ability to more voluntarily experience their uncomfortable thoughts, feelings, feelings and impulses, without responding with compulsions, avoidance behaviors, seeking consolation and / or mental rituals. .

The following represent important tools to stop health anxiety:

And al doctor:

In general, you do not want to be someone who goes to the doctor all the time for health reasons. But you want to be someone who takes everything possible so you do not have persistent fears. Perform a complete physical examination, with blood tests and verify your good health.

However, keep in mind that going to the doctor will not make you stop fearing for your health. It is not uncommon to believe that the doctor has missed something or that something has not been found yet. But going to the doctor will give you mental ammunition to fight your fears.

Do the basics:

Make sure you eat healthy, exercise and sleep. These are the basic principles of good health. Especially try jogging and get magnesium in your body. You want to make sure that you are reducing things that could cause excessive physical sensations that trigger more health anxiety.

Eating healthy, exercising and sleeping are important to avoid some of the smaller discomforts that a person with hypochondria usually notice.

Stop looking for symptoms on Google:

Those who seek causes of physical problems will almost always find the worst. Did you know that anxiety itself causes almost all physical symptoms? The most likely thing is that the problem is anxiety, and even if it is not, there is no way that you will know it through Google.

Investigate anxiety and hypochondria:

Investigate them thoroughly and understand them as best you can. The more you know about anxiety, the more you can understand how your symptoms occur and why, so you will not be surprised when you experience a strange physical sensation.

Stay very busy:

Part of your ability to control this type of anxiety has to do with how well you can avoid thinking about your health and still live an excellent life. That is why it is very important that you stay as busy as possible, from morning to night.

A time is just fine, but do your best to complete your days with people and activities that consume all your energy.

Even when you sleep, see if you can relax with a radio at low volume. By keeping your thoughts from getting out of control, you can avoid some of the fears that overwhelm you and cause you more anxiety.

Making these changes at this time can make you see a drastic difference in your hypochondria in a short period of time and reduce some of the anxiety that has been controlling you.