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For the anatomical term, see Hypochondrium.
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Classification and external resources
Hypochondriasis or hypochondria (sometimes referred to as health phobia or health anxiety) refers to excessive preoccupation or worry about having a serious illness. An individual suffering from hypochondriasis is known as a hypochondriac. Hypochondriacs become unduly alarmed about any physical symptoms they detect, no matter how minor the symptom may be. They are convinced that they have or are about to have a serious illness. Often, hypochondria persists even after a physician has evaluated a person and reassured them that their concerns about symptoms do not have an underlying medical basis or, if there is a medical illness, their concerns are far in excess of what is appropriate for the level of disease. Many hypochondriacs focus on a particular symptom as the catalyst of their worrying, such as gastro-intestinal problems, palpitations, or muscle fatigue. The duration of these symptoms and preoccupation is 6 months or longer.
The DSM-IV-TR defines this disorder, "Hypochondriasis," as a somatoform disorder and one study has shown it to affect about 3% of the visitors to primary care settings.
Hypochondria is often characterized by fears that minor bodily symptoms may indicate a serious illness, constant self-examination and self-diagnosis, and a preoccupation with one's body. Many individuals with hypochondriasis express doubt and disbelief in the doctors' diagnosis, and report that doctors’ reassurance about an absence of a serious medical condition is unconvincing, or un-lasting. Additionally, many hypochondriacs experience elevated blood pressure, stress, and anxiety in the presence of doctors or while occupying a medical facility, a condition known as "white coat syndrome." Many hypochondriacs require constant reassurance, either from doctors, family, or friends, and the disorder can become a disabling torment for the individual with hypochondriasis, as well as his or her family and friends. Some hypochondriacal individuals completely avoid any reminder of illness, whereas others frequently visit doctors’ surgeries. Other hypochondriacs will never speak about their terror, convinced that their fear of having a serious illness will not be taken seriously by those in whom they confide.
1 Diagnostic criteria
2 Manifestation and effects
3 Factors contributing to hypochondria
5 See also
7 External links
The ICD-10 is defined by the following criteria:
A persistent belief, of at least six months duration, of the presence of a maximum of two serious physical diseases (of which at least one must be specifically named by the patient).
A persistent preoccupation with a presumed deformity or disfigurement (body dysmorphic disorder).
B. Preoccupation with the belief and the symptoms causes persistent distress or interference with personal functioning in daily living, and leads the patient to seek medical treatment or investigations (or equivalent help from local healers).
C. Persistent refusal to accept medical advice that there is no adequate physical cause for the symptoms or physical abnormality, except for short periods of up to a few weeks at a time immediately after or during medical investigations.
D. Most commonly used exclusion criteria: not occurring only during any of the schizophrenia and related disorders (F20-F29, particularly F22) or any of the mood disorders (F30-F39).
The DSM-IV defines hypochondriasis according to the following criteria:
A. Preoccupation with fears of having, or the idea that one has, a serious disease based on the person's misinterpretation of bodily symptoms.
B. The preoccupation persists despite appropriate medical evaluation and reassurance.
C. The belief in Criterion A is not of delusional intensity (as in Delusional Disorder, Somatic Type) and is not restricted to a circumscribed concern about appearance (as in Body Dysmorphic Disorder).
D. The preoccupation causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.
E. The duration of the disturbance is at least 6 months.
F. The preoccupation is not better accounted for by Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Panic Disorder, a Major Depressive Episode, Separation Anxiety, or another Somatoform Disorder.
It may be further specified as "with poor insight if, for most of the time during the current episode, the person does not recognize that the concern about having a serious illness is excessive or unreasonable."
A proposed change in the next revision of the DSM (DSM-5), scheduled for publication in May 2013, would combine hypochondriasis with somatization disorder, pain disorder, and undifferentiated somatoform disorder under a single classification known as complex somatic symptom disorder.
Manifestation and effects
Hypochondriasis manifests in many ways. Puri B. K, Laking P.J, Treasaden I.H, (2000) states that hypochondrisis can manifest at any age, but usually between the ages of 20 and 30 years, occurring marginally more in males in contrast to other somatoform disorders which are more common in women.[dubious – discuss] Some people have numerous intrusive thoughts and physical sensations that push them to check with family, friends and physicians. Other people are so afraid of any reminder of illness that they will avoid medical professionals for a seemingly minor problem, sometimes to the point of becoming neglectful of their health when a serious condition may exist and go undiagnosed. Again, some people are afraid of getting a disease because they have a disease. Yet, some others live in despair and depression, certain that they have a life-threatening disease and no physician can help them. Some consider the disease as a punishment for past misdeeds.
Hypochondriasis is often accompanied by other psychological disorders. Clinical depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (also known as OCD), phobias and somatization disorder are the most common accompanying conditions in people with hypochondriasis, as well as a generalized anxiety disorder diagnosis at some point in their life. Autism/Aspergers can be another sign of this.[clarification needed]
Many people with hypochondriasis experience a cycle of intrusive thoughts followed by compulsive checking, which is very similar to the symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder. However, while people with hypochondriasis are afraid of having an illness, patients with OCD worry about getting an illness or of transmitting an illness to others. Although some people might have both, these are distinct conditions.
Patients with hypochondriasis often are not aware that depression and anxiety produce their own physical symptoms that might be mistaken for signs of a serious medical disease. For example, people with depression often experience changes in appetite and weight fluctuation, fatigue, decreased interest in sex and motivation in life overall. Intense anxiety is associated with rapid heart beat, palpitations, sweating, muscle tension, stomach discomfort, and numbness or tingling in certain parts of the body (hands, forehead, etc.).
Factors contributing to hypochondria
Cyberchondria is a colloquial term for hypochondria in individuals who have researched medical conditions on the Internet. The media and the Internet often contribute to hypochondria, as articles, TV shows and advertisements regarding serious illnesses such as cancer and multiple sclerosis (some of the diseases hypochondriacs commonly think they have) often portray these diseases as being random, obscure and somewhat inevitable. Inaccurate portrayal of risk and the identification of non-specific symptoms as signs of serious illness contribute to exacerbating the hypochondriac’s fear that they actually have that illness.
Major disease outbreaks or predicted pandemics can also contribute to hypochondria. Statistics regarding certain illnesses, such as cancer, will give hypochondriacs the illusion that they are more likely to develop the disease. A simple suggestion of mental illness can often trigger one with hypochondria to obsess over the possibility.
It is common for serious illnesses or deaths of family members or friends to trigger hypochondria in certain individuals. Similarly, when approaching the age of a parent's premature death from disease, many otherwise healthy, happy individuals fall prey to hypochondria. These individuals believe they are suffering from the same disease that caused their parent's death, sometimes causing panic attacks with corresponding symptoms.
A majority of people who experience physical pains or anxieties over non-existent ailments are not actually "faking it", but rather, experience the natural results of other emotional issues, such as very high amounts of stress.
“ Grief that finds no vent in tears makes other organs weep. ”
—Dr. Henry Maudsley, British psychiatrist
Family studies of hypochondriasis do not show a genetic transmission of the disorder. Among relatives of people suffering from hypochondriasis only somatization disorder and generalized anxiety disorder were more common than in average families. Other studies have shown that the first degree relatives of patients with OCD have a higher than expected frequency of a somatoform disorder (either hypochondriasis or body dysmorphic disorder).
Some anxieties and depressions are believed to be mediated by problems with brain chemicals such as serotonin and norepinephrine. The physical symptoms that people with anxiety or depression feel are indeed real bodily symptoms, and are believed to be triggered by neurochemical changes. For example, too much norepinephrine will result in severe panic attacks with symptoms of increased heart rate and sweating, shortness of breath, and fear. Too little serotonin can result in severe depression, accompanied by a sleep disturbance, severe fatigue, and typically is treatable with medical intervention.
If a person is ill with a medical disease such as diabetes or arthritis, there will often be psychological consequences, such as depression. Some even report being suicidal. In the same way, someone with psychological issues such as depression or anxiety will sometimes experience physical manifestations of these affective fluctuations, often in the form of medically unexplained symptoms. Common symptoms include headaches; abdominal, back, joint, rectal, or urinary pain; nausea; fever and/or night sweats; itching; diarrhea; dizziness; or balance problems. Many people with hypochondriasis accompanied by medically unexplained symptoms feel they are not understood by their physicians, and are frustrated by their doctors’ repeated failure to provide symptom relief. Common to the different approaches to the treatment of hypochondriasis is the effort to help each patient find a better way to overcome the way his/her medically unexplained symptoms and illness concerns rule her/his life. Current research makes clear that this excessive worry can be helped by either appropriate medicine or targeted psychotherapy.
Recent scientific studies have shown that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs; e.g., fluoxetine and paroxetine) are effective treatment options for hypochondriasis as demonstrated in clinical trials. CBT, a psycho-educational “talk” therapy, helps the worrier to address and cope with bothersome physical symptoms and illness worries and is found helpful in reducing the intensity and frequency of troubling bodily symptoms. SSRIs can reduce obsessive worry through adjusting neurotransmitter levels and have been shown to be effective as treatments for anxiety and depression as well as for hypochondriasis.
Another treatment that has proved effective in the treatment of hypochondriasis is exposure therapy. In one study, this was shown to be equally as effective as cognitive therapy and the improvements in condition were maintained after the study.
Medical students' disease
^ "Hypochondriasis". University of Maryland Medical Center.
^ Kring A.M. et. al. 2007. Abnormal Psychology. 10th ed. USA: Wiley
^ Goldberg R.J. MD.2007 Practical Guide to the Care of the Psychiatric Patient 3rd ed. Mosby-Elsevier: USA.
^ a b c American Psychiatric Association: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th ed., text revised, Washington, DC, APA, 2000.
^ Escobar JI, Gara M, Waitzkin H, Silver RC, Holman A, Compton W (1998). "DSM-IV hypochondriasis in primary care". Gen Hosp Psychiatry 20 (3): 155–9. doi:10.1016/S0163-8343(98)00018-8. PMID 9650033.
^ "Complex Somatic Symptom Disorder". American Psychiatric Association. January 14 2011. Retrieved February 19 2011.
^ a b c Fallon BA, Qureshi, AI, Laje G, Klein B: Hypochondriasis and its relationship to obsessive-compulsive disorder. Psychiatr Clin North Am 2000; 23:605-616.
^ Barsky AJ: Hypochondriasis and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Psychiatr Clin North Am 1992; 15:791-801.
^ Bienvenu OJ, Samuels JF, Riddle MA, Hoehn-Saric R, Liang KY, Cullen BAM, Grados, MA, Nestadt G: The relationship of obsessive-compulsive disorder to possible spectrum disorders: results from a family study. Biological Psychiatry 2000, 48:287-293.
^ Barsky AJ, Ahern DK: Cognitive behavior therapy for hypochondriasis: a randomized controlled trial. JAMA 2004; 291:1464-1470.
^ Clark DM, Salkovskis PM, Hackman A, Wells A, Fennell M, Ludgate J, Ahmand S, Richards HC, Gelder M: Two psychological treatments for hypochondriasis, a randomized controlled trial. Br J Psychiatry 1998; 173:218-225.
^ Fallon BA, Schneier FR, Marshall R, Campeas R, Vermes D, Goetz D, Liebowitz MR: The pharmacotherapy of hypochondriasis. Psychopharmacol Bull 1996; 32:607-611.
^ Fallon BA, Qureshi AI, Schneiner FR, Sanchez-Lacay A, Vermes D, Feinstein R, Connelly J, Liebowitz MR: An open trial of fluvoxamine for hypochondriasis. Psychosomatics 2003; 44:298-303.
^ Greeven A, Van Balkom AJ, Visser S, Merkelbach JW, Van Rood YR, Van Dyck R, Van der Does AJ, Zitman FG, Spinhoven P: Cognitive behavior therapy and paroxetine in the treatment of hypochondriasis: a randomized controlled trial. Am J Psychiatry 2007; 164:91-99.
^ Visser, S; Bouman, TK (2001). "The treatment of hypochondriasis: exposure plus response prevention vs cognitive therapy". Behaviour research and therapy 39 (4): 423–42. PMID 11280341. edit
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