Hypochondriac syndrome is an excessive concern for one's health, in particular, groundless fears about an allegedly existing or inevitably threatening serious illness. In most cases, this violation has no physical manifestations, however, every sensation and the slightest signs of indisposition are perceived by a person as a signal of trouble, even if after a thorough medical examination, doctors convince him of the opposite.
If the patient is objectively at risk, this circumstance can lead to intense experiences up to a depressive state. A person will worry excessively about every sensation associated with a potentially serious serious illness, taking the body's ordinary reactions as warning signals of danger. Excessive anxiety leads to severe stress, which, in turn, can destroy the patient's normal life.
Hypochondriac syndrome, whose symptoms can vary depending on many circumstances, is a chronic condition and often worsens with time. Its intensity increases either with age or during periods and situations that are especially stressful for a person. Science knows only two methods of dealing with an illness - this is psychological help (psychotherapy) and medicines.
Symptoms of hypochondria can be combined under a general description. These are constant reflections on the high probability of the disease, based on normal physical sensations (for example, bubbling sounds in the abdominal cavity) or minor symptoms (including cases of small skin rashes). The hypochondriac syndrome also manifests itself with the following symptoms:
- obsessive thoughts about suffering or contracting a serious illness, about the development of pathologies;
- anxiety about any bodily sensations or minor symptoms allegedly indicating a deadly disease;
- easily excitable anxiety about the state of their health;
- lack of confidence in the results of examinations and doctors who claim that your health is in perfect order;
- excessive concern about a particular disease or the development of pathology just because it was detected in several relatives;
- anxiety caused by thinking about possible diseases and interfering with normal life and work;
- frequent inspections of one’s own body to find signs of indisposition;
- regular visits to the doctor to increase confidence in the state of his health or, on the contrary, to avoid medical care for fear of identifying a deadly disease;
- avoidance of people, public places or events from unwillingness to endanger their health;
- constant discussion of their health and possible ailments;
- frequent use of the Internet to search for symptoms, causes and descriptions of potential diseases.
When to see a doctor
Hypochondriac syndrome, the treatment of which is started too late, can turn into real health problems. In addition, if you are plagued by suspicions about a number of symptoms experienced, you should consult with a specialist - it is possible that the signs of indisposition and in fact indicate the development of pathology. This does not mean, however, that you have predicted the disease: an accurate diagnosis can be made, only a doctor can determine the causes of the disease and prescribe adequate treatment.
The exact cause of hypochondria remains unclear, but scientists agree that the following factors play a significant role in the development of the disorder:
- Beliefs. The patient either does not understand the meaning of the physical signals of the body, or is poorly versed in diseases, or both are observed at the same time. As a result, the person comes to the conclusion that all the feelings he experiences are symptoms of terrible diseases, and is looking for evidence of false beliefs.
- Family. Astheno-hypochondriac syndrome, which means concern about the condition of their blood vessels and heart, is most often diagnosed in those who, from childhood, have become accustomed to similar anxiety in their parents. Sometimes adults are too concerned about the health of the child - this fact also leaves an imprint on the formation of the psyche.
- Past experience. If you have suffered a serious illness as a child, in the present normal physiological reactions of the body can cause phobias.
Hypochondria usually begins at the age of 18-30 and worsens with age. Elderly patients are usually most afraid of losing memory.
You are at risk of developing hypochondria if one or more of the following factors are present:
- severe stress in the current life period;
- the threat of a serious disease that is not really dangerous;
- suffering from insults and beatings in childhood;
- a serious illness suffered in childhood, or a serious illness in one of the parents;
- personality type prone to concern;
- overuse of health related sites.
Depressive-hypochondriac syndrome is the most severe case of concern. It can lead to real problems in real life, including:
- quarrels and disputes with family members and loved ones who do not approve of excessive attention to potential symptoms of diseases;
- disruption of normal working hours or frequent missed work days;
- psychological problems when following a normal lifestyle in everyday life;
- financial difficulties due to too frequent medical consultations and examinations;
- simultaneous development of another psychological disorder, including personality disorders.
For an accurate diagnosis should consult a specialist. He will most likely conduct a primary medical examination and, if necessary, order additional examinations. The doctor will also determine if your concern is true hypochondria or if it has solid ground. You may be referred to a psychiatrist.
- evaluate your psychological state on the basis of a story about symptoms, experienced stress, family history, fears and anxieties, problems in your personal life and other factors affecting your quality of life;
- will offer you to fill in a questionnaire or a form of psychological self-assessment;
- will clarify whether you drink alcoholic beverages or narcotic substances.
The hypochondriac syndrome as such is not a disease, but it has specific symptoms that can lead to serious complications in real life. That is why doctors prescribe treatment in order to alleviate the intensity of symptoms and provide you with the opportunity to properly perform their household and family functions. Psychotherapy, in particular, cognitive behavioral therapy, can significantly help in the treatment of disorders such as anxiety-hypochondria syndrome. In some cases, taking medication is required.
Since physical sensations are often associated with psychological stress and emotional anxiety, psychotherapy is recognized as an effective method of dealing with hypochondria. In particular, cognitive behavioral therapy encourages the patient to develop the skills of self-opposition to the syndrome. Psychologists work both with groups of patients and individually.
- self-identification of fears and false beliefs about the presence of a serious illness;
- the study of alternative methods of perception of the physiological reactions of your body due to a change in the negative way of thinking;
- a deeper understanding of the mechanism by which fears and anxieties affect personality and behavior;
- changes in the subconscious response to physical sensations and manifestations of minor symptoms;
- comprehension skills to deal with anxiety and stress;
- reducing the number of missed activities that are avoided due to fear of harm to their health;
- getting rid of the bad habit of constantly inspecting your body for signs of illness, as well as of the far-fetched need to regularly consult with doctors;
- improving the overall quality of life, activity at home, at work, in personal life and social situations;
- treatment of other psychological disorders, most often - depression.
If you have been diagnosed with such types of disorders as depressive or astheno-hypochondriac syndrome, treatment may consist of another type of psychotherapy.
Antidepressants, in particular selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) - Fluoxetine, Sertralin, Paroxetine - can help in the treatment of serious psychological pathologies, including the hypochondriac-senesthopathic syndrome. Often, doctors recommend taking other drugs aimed at combating anxiety. For example, reversible inhibitors of monoamine oxidase type A (CIMA-A) - “Pirlindol”, “Moklobemid”, “Ademetionin”.
You should consult with a specialist about the choice of drugs and possible side effects or risks.
Doctors still do not agree on the most effective preventive measures, but the general recommendations can be summarized as follows:
- If you frequently experience anxiety, seek professional psychological help as soon as possible so that the symptoms do not worsen and the quality of your life does not decline.
- Learn to understand when you are under pressure from stress factors and how this circumstance affects your body. Practice stress management and relaxation techniques regularly.
- Follow the treatment plan agreed with your doctor to prevent recurrence of the disorder or worsening of symptoms. Despite the fact that the hypochondria syndrome is recognized as a chronic condition, there is always an opportunity to get rid of its manifestations for a long time.