Hypochondriasis is an anxiety disorder in which the person experiencing it believes that they have a serious illness even though the disease is not present and the results of a medical examination are normal.
Fatigue or the sensation of muscle twitching is normal after activity. However, in patients with hypochondriasis or illness anxiety disorder , these signs are believed to be symptoms of an illness and should be immediately consulted by a doctor.
Even though the results of a medical examination show that there is no serious illness, people with hypochondriasis or hypochondria still feel excessive anxiety. If not treated immediately, this condition can interfere with the relationship between sufferers and their family, social environment, or work.
Causes of Hypochondriasis
It's not known exactly what causes hypochondriasis. However, a person's risk of suffering from hypochondriasis is thought to be related to the following factors:
- Have a history of prolonged (chronic) illness in childhood
- Have lost a loved one due to a serious illness
- Have experienced sexual abuse, physical or emotional abuse, or neglect as a child
- Suffering from another mental disorder, such as anxiety disorder or obsessive compulsive disorder ( OCD )
- Have or have cared for a parent or sibling with a serious illness
- Lack of knowledge about health
- Living with family or in an environment where there are many cases of hypochondriasis
Symptoms of Hypochondriasis
Hypochondriasis makes sufferers believe that the mild complaints they experience can endanger their lives. For example, the cold cough he experienced could be considered a symptom of lung cancer.
Hypochondriasis can cause mental symptoms and behavioral changes, including:
- Having excessive anxiety that he is suffering from a serious illness
- Make appointments with the doctor many times to confirm the existence of the disease even though the results are always negative
- Checking the condition of the body repeatedly, for example measuring blood pressure or body temperature
- Telling family or friends about their health condition excessively
- Spends most of his time searching for information on the internet regarding the symptoms he is experiencing
- Avoiding certain people, places, or activities, for fear of contracting a disease
- Experiencing sleep disturbances
Meanwhile, the physical symptoms that can arise as a result of hypochondriasis are tense, tired, and twitching muscles.
When to see a doctor
Immediately consult a doctor if you or those around you experience symptoms of hypochondriasis. Examination and treatment need to be done immediately, especially if symptoms of major depression, panic disorder , and problems in daily life appear.
Diagnosis of Hypochondriasis
First of all, the doctor will conduct a thorough examination to detect possible diseases that the patient really suffers from. Tests carried out include a complete physical examination, blood tests, and scans, such as X-rays, CT scans, or MRIs .
If the suspected disease is not detected, the patient will be recommended to undergo hypochondriasis testing.
To diagnose hypochondriasis, the doctor will conduct a question and answer, physical and psychiatric examination, as well as supporting examinations. Frequently asked questions by doctors include:
- Complaints experienced by patients
- Family history of disease
- Experienced traumatic events or severe stress
- Any medications you have or are currently taking
Furthermore, the doctor will refer to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) 5, to confirm the diagnosis of hypochondriasis. Patients can be diagnosed with hypochondriasis if they have the following criteria:
- Excessive worry about his health and believing himself to have a life-threatening disease
- Somatic symptoms do not appear or are only mild, for example a feeling of worry about certain diseases that are passed down in the family
- Excessive worry about conditions or situations that are believed to be harmful to him
- Excessive behavior, for example repeatedly checking one's own condition which is considered a symptom of certain diseases
- The above signs and symptoms last for at least 6 months
- The above symptoms are not caused by another mental disorder
After the diagnosis is established, the doctor can determine the type of hypochondriasis suffered by the patient, including:
Care seeking (seeking treatment)
Patients with this type of hypochondriasis often undergo medical tests even though the test results show that their condition is normal. Repeated examinations were carried out because he thought that the previous doctor had misdiagnosed his symptoms.
Care avoidant (avoiding treatment)
People with this type of hypochondriasis avoid being examined by a doctor because they often do not believe in the results. The sufferer is worried if the examination shows that he is suffering from a serious illness, such as cancer.
If needed, the doctor will run blood tests and urine tests , to detect possible alcohol addiction or drug abuse.
Treatment of hypochondriasis aims to help the patient manage anxiety and allow the patient to carry out normal activities. Treatment methods include:
Cognitive behavioral therapy is a type of psychotherapy to treat hypochondriasis. Patients will be helped to manage anxiety in response to physical symptoms or sensations in the body, such as muscle twitches.
This therapy also aims to train patients to reduce the behavior of frequently undergoing medical tests without specific indications.
Antidepressant drugs, for example a type of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), can be used to treat hypochondriasis. This drug can also relieve feelings of excessive anxiety in hypochondriasis patients.
If left untreated, hypochondriasis can reduce the sufferer's quality of life and cause the following complications:
- Problems in relationships with family and other people
- Financial problems, due to frequent medical examinations or buying drugs that are not really needed
- Side effects due to excessive scanning, for example exposure to radiation from X-rays
- Decreased work performance, or often absent from the office, even losing a job
- Other mental illnesses, such as major depression, psychosomatic disorders , or personality disorders
Hypochondriasis cannot always be prevented. However, there are several efforts that can be made to reduce the risk of hypochondriasis, namely:
- Check with your doctor if you often feel excessive anxiety in order to get the right treatment
- Manage stress by doing regular relaxation
- Avoid reading medical articles too often that can cause anxiety or fear, and whose sources are unclear
- Do not diagnose yourself ( self diagnosis ) if you experience certain symptoms
- Ensuring the correctness of medical information to doctors
Routine but not excessive medical check-ups can also help prevent hypochondriasis. Ask your doctor about the right time and frequency of medical check-ups .