Have you ever known someone who was overly obsessed with their health and wellbeing? They continually went to the doctor for phantom illnesses? It is easy to categorize this type of person as a liar or someone who just wants attention, but more often than not they are legitimately suffering from hypochondria.
Hypochondria is a mental illness where someone will become obsessed with the idea that they have a severe health condition that is undiagnosed. This obsession leads to extreme anxiety about their health and the state of their body. A simple cold or even a sneeze can send this person into a frenzy. They often think that it is indicative of a much more serious bodily condition.
Hypochondria usually coincides with another disorder such as panic disorder, anxiety, OCD or depression. Sometimes this stems from a loss this person had of a loved one to a severe health condition, or it could be the result of them living through their own major illness or health condition. While many may think of this as just a quirky or obsessive character trait, it is a serious mental health behavior. It is unhelpful to assume this person is just grasping at attention instead of trying to help them get the treatment they need.
The symptoms of hypochondria are varied but follow a similar strain. Those struggling with hypochondria will be checking themselves for various illnesses and thinking of small ailments, such as a cough or a runny nose, as telling of a much more serious issue. They will often visit the doctor frequently or on the adverse, avoid the doctor altogether because they are nervous that they will actually learn about an ailment that they have.
While obsessing about their health, often hypochondriacs will check online about their health and possible symptoms to try to self-diagnose. The internet makes this condition even more dangerous. The anxiety that is birthed out of a hypochondriacs behavior will generally lead to actual physical issues, such as upset stomachs, as well.
Many who are struggling with hypochondria can often benefit from self-help treatment such as avoiding the internet or looking up potential symptoms, practicing stress-relieving techniques and even engaging actively in a hobby that they enjoy. For more severe conditions, it is essential to talk with a therapist about professional treatment such as medication or cognitive behavioral therapy.
Herrick Lipton is the CEO of New Horizon Counseling Center in New York and is also an advocate for mental health. For more information about Herrick or to get in touch with New Horizon Counseling Center for resources, please visit nhcc.us or call 718-845-2620.