Hypochondriasis is an overwhelming fear that you have a serious disease, even though there is no medical evidence of illness. It is also known as hypochondria or illness anxiety disorder (IAD). People with this disease think that normal body sensations are signs of serious illness.
Most people sometimes fear they have an illness. People with hypochondriasis are consumed with fear. This fear is severe and persistent, and interferes with work, as well as relationships. Hypochondriasis is somewhat similar to obsessive compulsive disorder.
Signs and symptoms include:
The exact cause of hypochondriasis is not known. Some of the causes include:
Risk factors may include:
Your health care provider may:
In addition to regular visits with a health care provider who will take physical symptoms seriously, people with hypochondriasis may also benefit from psychotherapy. Studies show group therapy, behavior modification, and cognitive therapy work particularly well.
People with hypochondriasis often have other mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression. Treatment of these conditions is important in treating symptoms of hypochondriasis. Your provider may recommend limiting reading medical books and websites.
Doctors typically do notuse drugs to treat hypochondriasis. They may prescribe medication for associated mental health conditions. Antidepressants, including selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) like fluoxetine or paroxetine may improve the anxiety and physical symptoms of hypochondriasis.
Several types of psychotherapy may help:
Cognitive behavioral therapy and stress management are the main treatments for hypochondriasis. Participating in mindfulness techniques, such as meditation, may also help patients manage symptoms.
No scientific studies have examined the effect of nutrition on hypochondriasis. However, people with hypochondriasis who also have anxiety or depression may benefit from avoiding alcohol and caffeine.
Following these general nutritional tips may also help reduce risks and symptoms:
You may consider the following supplements:
No herbs are specifically used to treat hypochondriasis and no studies show any effectiveness of herbs for hypochondriasis. Because many herbs interact with prescription antidepressants and anxiety medications, make sure your doctor is aware of all medications, herbs, and supplements you take.
No studies have examined the effectiveness of specific homeopathic remedies. Homeopaths may consider the following remedies for anxiety and other symptoms of hypochondriasis:
Some studies indicate that acupuncture may be useful in treating some symptoms of hypochondriasis. Acupuncture may be useful for symptoms such as:
Massage therapy may help reduce symptoms of hypochondriasis in some people.
Stress and anxiety may make the symptoms of hypochondriasis worse. Many people may also struggle with costly medical tests and develop a dependency on certain medications. Hypochondriasis is a chronic illness (it persists for a long time), but getting early psychiatric treatment and having a strong motivation to change may increase the chances of getting better.
Keep up the regular appointments scheduled with your health care provider.
Bergquist PE. Therapeutic homeopathy. In: Rakel D, ed. Integrative Medicine. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 115.
Bongiorno PB, Murray MT. Hypericum perforatum (St. John's wort). In: Pizzorno JE, Murray MT, ed. Textbook of Natural Medicine. 4th ed. St Louis, MO: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2013:chap 99.
Bongiorno PB, Murray MT. Affective disorders. In: Pizzorno JE, Murray MT, ed. Textbook of Natural Medicine. 4th ed. St Louis, MO: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2013:chap 142.
Cooper K, Gregory JD, Walker I, Lambe S, Salkovskis PM. Cognitive behaviour therapy for health anxiety: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Behav Cogn Psychother. 2017;45(2):110-123. PMID: 28229805 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28229805.
Evens A, Vendetta L, Krebs K, Herath P. Medically unexplained neurologic symptoms: a primer for physicians who make the initial encounter. Am J Med. 2015;128(10):1059-1064. PMID: 25910791 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25910791.
Fallon BA, Ahern DK, Pavlicova M, et al. A randomized controlled trial of medication and cognitive-behavioral therapy for hypochondriasis. Am J Psychiatry. 2017;174(8):756-764. PMID: 28659038 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28659038.
Kalanithi L. Hypochondriasis (illness anxiety disorder). In: Ferri FF, ed. Ferri's Clinical Advisor 2019. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019: 744.e1-744.e2.
Murray MT. Piper methysticum (Kava). In: Pizzorno JE, Murray MT, ed. Textbook of Natural Medicine. 4th ed. St Louis, MO: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2013:chap 114.
Pizzorno JE, Paul C, Schauss AG. Fish oils (omega-3 fatty acids, docosahexaenoic acid, eicosapentaenoic acid, dietary fish, and fish oils). In: Pizzorno JE, Murray MT, eds. Textbook of Natural Medicine. 4th ed. St Louis, MO: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2013:chap 91.
Reichert RG. Melatonin. In: Pizzorno JE, Murray MT, eds. Textbook of Natural Medicine. 4th ed. St Louis, MO: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2013:chap 103.
Winter AO. Somatoform disorders. In: Walls RM, Hockberger RS, Gausche-Hill M, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 103.
Reviewed By: Steven D. Ehrlich, NMD, Solutions Acupuncture, a private practice specializing in complementary and alternative medicine, Phoenix, AZ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- 2019 A.D.A.M., a business unit of Ebix, Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.