What is Hypochondriasis Disorder?
This illness is a form of abnormal anxiety to health which can be mild or severe. People with hypochondriasis are very much worries of contracting a disease or sometimes very certain that they have a disease even though no medical tests support their belief. They interpret normal sensations, body functions and mild symptoms as a sign of a worst illness. For instance, a person is convinced the headaches he or she experiences is caused by a brain tumor or fear the normal sounds of digestion. These individuals may think of sweating or a skin mark as a sign of serious and deadly disease.
Hypochondriasis occurs roughly in 4% to 9% of the people seen in medical practice. It can occur at any time of life, but most often begins in early adulthood. It appears to men and women equally.
Because no doctor can give them the precise medical result of their ‘assumed disease,’ hypochondriasis clients have the tendency to go from one doctor to the other. Because the intensive search for illness cannot be found, they tend to get frustrated and angry. Sometimes, when they develop a ‘real’ medical illness, they won’t get proper care and effective treatment because of their search of confirmation to their ‘believed’ condition.
What Are The Symptoms of Hypochondriasis?
The symptoms of hypochondriasis are the following:
- Preoccupation of having a serious illness
- Bodily symptoms are misinterpreted
- Persistent fear despite medical reassurance
- Absence of delusions or psychosis
- Clinical distress or functional impairment
How is it Diagnosed?
Diagnosing hypochondriasis can be difficult since clients with this disorder are convinced that their symptoms are caused by a medical illness. A primary care physician usually suspects the case and sends the client to a psychiatrist for conformation if the doctor cannot find medical support for the symptoms presented. However, most clients refuse to see a mental health professional. Diagnosis is based on history, medical complaints, the doctor’s physical assessment and laboratory tests performed. To confirm the diagnosis of hypochondriasis, the psychiatrist may need to conduct a personality assessment.
How to Treat Hypochondriasis?
The primary goal of the treatment is aimed to assist clients live and function as normal as possible even if they continue to have the symptoms. In addition, the goal of the treatment is also targeted to change the thinking and behavior of the individual that leads to the symptoms.
Like other somatoform disorders, hypochondriasis is a tough case to treat since the client is totally convinced the symptoms experienced is real and refuses to believe it is just a result of emotional and mental causes.
The following treatment can be combined to manage a person with this condition:
- Supportive care. This is only achieve if the individual stays on a regular contact with the health care provider. The approach is aimed on reassuring and supporting the person. Unnecessary tests and treatments should be prevented. Although in some cases, it is vital to treat some of the symptoms such as severe pain.
- Antidepressants or anti-anxiety drugs can be used for clients with hypochondriasis with mood or anxiety disorder.
- This is a form of counseling which is helpful in changing the thought process and behavior of the client.
Hypochondriasis clients need to live in an understanding and supportive environment. This is essential in helping them cope up with the disorder better.
The 5 Specific Somatoform disorders
Somatoform disorders are psychiatric illnesses characterized by the presence of physical symptoms suggesting medical condition that cannot be explained by an actual physical disorder. The five specific somatoform disorders are:
- Somatization disorder. This psychiatric illness is characterized by multiple physical symptoms. It begins at about age 30 extending over several years. Physical manifestation includes gastrointestinal, sexual and pseudoneurologic symptoms.
- Conversion disorder. Also called conversion reaction, this disorder is characterized by unexplained and sudden problems in sensory or motor functions such as blindness or paralysis. Although these problems suggest a neurologic disorder, in conversion disorder psychological factors associate the illness. La belle indifference, the client’s lack of concern is the major characteristics of this condition.
- Pain disorder. The name of the illness suggests pain is the primary physical symptom. The difference of this pain to those with organic cause is how it is unrelieved by analgesics and is greatly affected by psychological facts when it comes to the onset, severity, exacerbation and maintenance.
- Hypochondriasis. Individuals with hypochondriasis has fear that he or she has a serious disease (disease conviction) or will get a serious disease (disease phobia). Clients diagnosed with this illness misinterpret sensations and functions of the body.
- Body dysmorphic disorder. In this illness, the client is preoccupied that he or she has an exaggerated physical defect in physical appearance. For instance, he or she thinks that the nose is too large or his teeth are crooked and very ugly.