Hypochondriasis or health anxiety—what is more technically known as Illness Anxiety Disorder—involves frequent and persistent fears about one’s health. People who struggle with health anxiety often interpret harmless bodily cues or sensations as signs of serious illness.
People with health anxiety may constantly check their bodies for signs of illness, and they may spend hours researching their symptoms on the Internet. Sometimes they may have experienced a serious medical problem in the past.
Some people make frequent appointments with their doctor. They may request diagnostic tests or referrals to specialists. Others avoid medical care altogether despite persistent fears that something is wrong with them.
Health anxiety can be part of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, or it may exist on its own. Health-related fears that are not part of OCD are typically diagnosed as Illness Anxiety Disorder.
Unfortunately the things people do to try to alleviate health-related worries tend to make them worse over time: Internet research; frequent doctor’s visits; checking the body for signs of disease. A skillful clinician can help people with Illness Anxiety Disorder learn other tools for coping with their distress, and to identify and learn to resist engaging in behaviors that feed into their fears. Contact us at the Portland Psychotherapy Anxiety Clinic to discuss treatment options.