Illness Anxiety Disorder

Illness Anxiety Disorder

(Hypochondria; Hypochondriasis)

Definition

Illness anxiety disorder is persistent fear of having a serious illness. The fear lasts, even when there is no illness. If not treated, the fear can affect daily life.

Causes

The cause of this disorder is not known.

Risk Factors

Things that may raise the risk of illness anxiety disorder are:

  • Family history of this disorder
  • Having a serious childhood illness
  • Mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, or personality disorder
  • Childhood abuse
  • Seeing violence in childhood
  • A stressful experience with illness
  • Past trauma

Brain—Psychological Organ

Brain Man Face
Chemical imbalances and traumatic life experiences may contribute to the development of illness anxiety disorder.
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Symptoms

Symptoms are health worries that last at least 6 months. They are very upsetting. They may affect social life and work.

They include:

  • Fear of serious illness
  • Thinking minor symptoms are from serious illness
  • Many physical complaints that often change

They lead to:

  • Checking oneself often
  • Repeat doctor visits and tests
  • Reading about health often
  • Changing doctors often
  • Trying many herbal or natural products

Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. If the exam shows no disease, the doctor may order other tests. If no illness is found, the doctor may suspect illness anxiety disorder. Diagnosis is based on fear of illness that lasts:

  • At least 6 months
  • Despite negative tests
  • And is not due to other mental health problems

Treatment

Illness anxiety disorder is treated with supportive care. A doctor and counselor may work with the patient. The goal is to reduce anxiety and improve functioning.

Options may be:

Prevention

There are no current guidelines to prevent this condition.

RESOURCES:

American Counseling Association
https://www.counseling.org
American Psychiatric Association
https://www.psychiatry.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Canadian Psychiatric Association
https://www.cpa-apc.org
Canadian Psychological Association
https://cpa.ca

References:

Antidepressant efficacy in generalized anxiety disorder. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/management/antidepressant-efficacy-in-generalized-anxiety-disorder . Accessed March 10, 2021.
Anxiety disorders. National Institute of Mental Health website. Available at: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/anxiety-disorders/index.shtml. Accessed March 10, 2021.
Illness anxiety disorder. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed March 10, 2021.
Scarella TM, Boland RJ, et al. Illness anxiety disorder: psychopathology, epidemiology, clinical characteristics, and treatment. Psychosom Med. 2019;81(5):398-407.
Somatic symptom disorder. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/somatic-symptom-disorder. Accessed March 10, 2021.
Last reviewed January 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Adrian Preda, MD
Last Updated: 3/10/2021

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