What is hypercondriac?
Let’s face it, we live in a society associated with high level of stressful and depressing life situations that eventually builds up while we carry out daily activities involving personal, social and work obligations. At times, these situations can irritate us to a point where it can cause us minor illnesses including mild headache or migraine, anxiety, depression and even physical pain. If these complications are left untreated, it can become more intense. This is when a hypercondriac gets a false sense of belief and become consumed with fear, distress and convictions regarding their own health status. In fact, they will strongly believe that very soon, a doctor will somehow diagnose him/her with a severe or fatal disease.
For instance, a minor physical symptom such as a mild headache resulted from a stressful encounter could lead to excessive fear and worry for the person; one may attribute the simple headache to a serious medical condition such as a brain tumor. Moreover, individuals who are already living with some medical conditions will tend to worry about their health even more. From time to time, they will question the slightest “normal body” symptoms they may be experiencing which can then cause a reaction or sensation leading to other parts of their body. This type of fear may intensify over time and become overwhelmingly unbearable for both the individual and the family involved, causing great distress and interference to everyday living.
Though such concerns and worries are a major component of modern life, physicians have become more aware that it is a medical condition. In fact, the condition is recognized by the classification of the World Health Organization’s system ICD-10; it is a mental health related illness referred to as a hypochondriacal disorder, clinical hypercondraisis or just hypercondriac. In other words, an individual suffering from hypercondriacal disorder is a hypercondriac.
Hypercondriac or Hypochondriac?
Similarly, hypochondriac is another term used synonymously with hypercondriac; though they are used interchangeably, a minor distinction exists between them. While a hypercondriac is a condition or an individual who is convinced that they are always sick, a hypochondriac is an individual or a situation where one is in fear of getting sick or been diagnosed with an illness.
Essentially, hypochondria is a somatoform disorder preoccupation with a conviction that one has a serious illness or is in fear of having a serious disease; it is an anxiety disorder that is expressed as a sign of a severe physical illness, even when there is no medical evidence to support the presence of the symptoms or medical illness.
A hypochondriac becomes unduly ignited about any physiological symptoms they experience, irrespective of how minor and insignificant the symptom may be. They have absolute conviction that the condition is related to a physical health issue and not emotionally induced, according to a report from Georgetown University Medical Center.
Hypochondriac people trigger themselves
Many hypochondriac persons focus on a particular physical symptom as the triggering factor for their worrying health situation. For example, a patient suffering from a mild stomach pain may attribute the condition as being related to a serious physical problem, such as bowel cancer; a medical assurance from a doctor that the condition is a result of an emotional situation, say stress, does not provide any form of relief.
Recent medical studies published in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders expounds that hypochondria exists in a situation where there are multiple or significant physical symptoms that occur inconsistently; essentially, despite the occurrence of the physical symptoms, medical test results show no sign of illness or injury. The publication denotes that, it can be a form a somatization disorder contributed by some psychological stressors such as anxiety and mood disorders, which become commonly expressed as physical symptoms. A person may suffer from pain and frustrations especially following multiple tests and evaluation procedures with no detectable illness or evidence to back their claim.
Additionally, the hypochondriac condition may exist in a situation where a person does not experience any physical symptoms or when the symptoms are very mild. Instead, a person experiences anxiety, paranoia and fear of having developed a serious life threatening disease. Those who get minor symptoms and normal body sensations get convictions that the signs would lead to severe illnesses; even after multiple tests and medical reassurance that no illnesses are detected, they are not reassured, and their obsessive worry still persist.
Notably, hypochcondria is a chronic condition that tends to begin in early adulthood and often persist for a long time even after the acute stressors are resolved. It is equally common in males and females. Clinical prevalence of anxiety disorder has shown that an estimate of up to 4 to 5 percent of patients may be hypochondriac. Noticeably, an estimated 75 to 85% of the patients suffer from anxiety, depression, pain disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Anxiety Is The Main Reason For Hypercondriac
In many hypercondriac cases, the common emotions are paranoia, panic and anxiety. The patient honestly and innocently believe that they are suffering from a deadly disease, with cancer topping the list of concerns. In other cases, some patients also experience depression. Besides that, Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a common hypercondriac condition characterized by unreasonable or unpleasant thoughts and anxieties (obsessions), which lead to repetitive behavior or mental act (compulsions); one feels that they need to accomplish the unpleasant thought to relieve the unpleasant feeling. Furthermore, when a hypochondriac suffers from a pain disorder, they experience a persistent pain that cannot be attributed to a physical condition or stimulant.
Interestingly, it is always devastating for hypercondriac patients to admit and accept that they are suffering from a mental disorder that is related to their emotional perception and not a physical condition. Take a look at the case study below:
Miss K is a 31 year-old woman who visits an emergency section suffering from abdominal pain. She reports that she has been experiencing chronic pain since her adolescence age. She has a long history of multiple abdominal surgeries; surprisingly, all these operations have failed to treat or lessen her grief. Her laboratory examination, medical results, critical signs, urinalysis, and chemistry profile are within the normal limits. Additionally, she has seen ten different doctors, each of whom assured her that she does not have any abdominal disease and that there is nothing to worry about. Despite the reassurances from professionals, she won’t accept it. As a result, she is admitted back to her primary care physician. Overtime, the physician has been following her condition; finally, the physician confirms to her that she is suffering from a mental disorder; the disorder is causing a health anxiety, which contributed to the physical abdominal pain.
It is important to note that a diagnosed hypercondriac do not knowingly or willingly create these symptoms; neither is it a way of seeking attention from family members and friends by pretending to be sick. Rather, they are unable to control the symptoms.
If you like you can read more on What causes hypercondriac.
What is hypochondriac?
Being a hypochondriac means that you are too worried and anxious about your health. This condition is known as hypochondria (health anxiety) where the sufferers worries so much about their health, that it will cause them great distress, dramatically affecting their day-to day life. A hypochondriac person believes that they have a severe or life-endangering sickness despite having no medically proven evidence. Their symptoms are only in their minds. According to a hypochondriac person’s conscious, these symptoms are real even if doctor’s diagnosis says otherwise.
One would believe that the usual body sensations or slight symptoms are signs of a serious illness. People with a medical condition are at a higher risk of being a hypochondriac. A hypochondriasis patient with a medical condition, for example diabetes, may feel like they’re sicker that they really are. They may feel so overwhelmed that the body sensations associated with that particular medical condition will feel like they are greater threats than they actually are. This extreme anxiety, rather than the fact of physical symptom is what results to great stress.
Hypochondria fluctuates in severity depending on factors such as age and stress level. It may be severe in old age and in people who has hypertension or often get stressed a lot.
Types of Hypochondriasis
A hypochondriac lies into either of these extremes.
1. Persistently seeking reassurance
The is the type that may become so obsessive they will often look up information on the internet concerning their health status. They will also book many appointments with doctors, therapists and physicians. And will usually request to have lots of different tests conducted on them but fact is, no medically proven symptoms will be found.
2. Avoidance behavior
This is whereby the patient avoids medical TV programmes, physician’s appointments or anything else they think could trigger the anxiety. They may even avoid activities like exercises that are thought to worsen the condition.
Regardless of the extreme end one falls into, professional help is needed to break the vicious circle of health anxiety.
Causes of Hypochondriac
The specific cause of this disorder is not yet clear, but these factors may contribute a lot.
Beliefs – the case could be that you do not understand what body sensations mean or you have little understanding of different types of diseases, or perhaps both. This could make you think that all body sensations are symptoms of severe illnesses. You may therefore go finding information to confirm that you have a severe health problem.
Family – Having parents who are very much worried about your health or theirs could make you vulnerable to the disorder.
Earlier experience – Having had some serious diseases in childhood can make one so worried about their current health status that they will pay “more than enough” attention to the smallest details.
Personality – If you are a worrier in general and get stressed out quite easily, then you are at a higher risk of developing hypochondria. If you are the kind of a person who cannot handle emotions and conflicts well, then you are also vulnerable of being a hypochondriac.
Mental health conditions such as stress and depression may put you at a higher risk of fallen victim to hypochondriasis.
Hypochondria vicious circle
This disorder can be a vicious circle. If you are the person who constantly checks your body for any signs of disease, you will eventually find something. Often, it won’t be something serious. A rash could be a sign of an allergic reaction to a certain substance, sweating could be due to anxiety but you could be worried that these are signs of a severe sickness. Making these types of discovery will unfortunately result in additional anxieties, and will ultimately make you want to continue checking your body even more, causing unnecessary mind draining burden to your wellbeing.
This may extend to wanting reassurance from doctors, physicians or even friends. You may get some comfort from this, but you can be sure it won’t last. It may reach a point where you even stop believing the reassurance and may even want more of it just to feel better. This worsens the symptoms and the whole situation as your brain will be going around in circle chasing something that is not there. Excessive worrying may also cause panic attacks and depression in the long-run.
Symptoms of Hypochondria to Watch For
• Being too much worried over getting or having a severe illness.
• Worrying that usual body sensations are symptoms of severe health conditions.
• Over alarmed over your personal health status.
• Excessive worrying over a certain medical condition or worry that it may catch you because it has affected others in your family.
• Constantly checking your body to spot any signs of illnesses.
• Constantly going for medical appointments for reassurance.
• Avoiding places, people and activities for the fear of health risks or even avoiding medical care for the fear of being diagnosed with a certain illness.
• Searching information online, especially on medical forums for concerning diseases, possible causes, symptoms and experiences from related patients.
Diagnosis of Hypochondria
If the above symptoms are noted in you, you will need a health care provider to evaluate them and ascertain that you are actually hypochondriac. It is important that you describe the symptoms accurately for the most accurate diagnosis. When did the symptoms start? How severe are they? How often do they occur?
Once the health care provider establishes that you are suffering from hypochondria and there are no serious underlying physical causes for your mentioned symptoms, they should investigate further to find out whether you have problems related to anxiety disorder and depression as it can be what caused it in the first place, or are worsening the symptoms.
If you are noticing such problems of depression and anxiety disorder, you should be referred to a psychological therapist, and may be prescribed with some antidepressants by a psychiatrist. If it is not about depression, the doctor will still need to make you feel less worried by providing professional advice and referring you to a less intensive treatment such as a hypnotherapy session with a qualified psychologist.
A hypochondriac person may benefit so much from cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). You will work with a certified psychologist to establish your thoughts and emotions and how well you’re coping. After identifying these details, your therapist will work out a plan that will guide you into changing your behavior, mindset and thoughts that will reduce your health anxiety level.
They keenly look at how you deal with symptoms and help you through in challenging them to encourage a more realistic and balanced view.
CBT may not work best for every hypochondriac patient – some may require trauma-focused therapy while others may require a psychotherapy that addresses a certain psychological condition.
Hypercondriac people with mental conditions such as depression may find antidepressants helpful. For some, antidepressants may give better results than CBT. You could get a prescription directly from the certified health care provider, or he may refer you to a mental health care professional for qualified treatment.
Treating symptoms with medication may not always be the answer however. It is also advisable that the benefits and potential side effects of taking the medicine are compared before settling for this option. So always make sure to consult with a qualified professional.
Since there is yet a medically proven cure for treating hypochondriac and the fact that this type of mental disorder has a lot to do with the person’s anxiety level, therefore some experts believe that patients can actually heal themselves by following self help guide and steps specifically designed with instructions to reduce stress and anxieties. Many PHD (Doctor of Philosophy) authors have written and published books on how to deal with health worries with many readers claiming to have experienced dramatic improvement in their hypochondriasis status.
Relaxation and meditation methods are also commonly used to help in the treatment of hypercondriac because it can help calm a person’s mind and body. This is absolutely crucial in treating health anxiety. You could try relaxation techniques like progressive muscle relaxation and even hypnosis to reduce the anxieties. The good news is, there are so many products nowadays such as music audios, dvds, books, stress relievers and even essential oils to scented sprays for stress relief.
Your kind of lifestyle choices can also have a major impact so start involving yourself in more social events, do more exercise and if applicable, consider quitting substance and alcohol use to experience additional benefits. So please understand that any type of “good” changes you make and self-care remedies can only become handy in your treatment process.
The last piece of advice would be to avoid searching for information on the internet about your symptoms, especially if your doctor has already provided confirmation that there is nothing wrong with you. Otherwise, this act will only increase your fear, uncertainty and may not do you much good in your recovery journey from being a hypochondriac.
If you like you can read more on What causes Hypochondria.