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Definition Return to top
Hypochondria is a belief that real or imagined physical symptoms are signs of a serious illness, despite medical reassurance and other evidence to the contrary.
Causes Return to top
People with hypochondria are preoccupied with their physical health. They have an unrealistic fear of serious disease that is out of proportion to the actual risk. There is no specific cause of hypochondria, and it occurs equally in men and women.
Symptoms Return to top
Those who are affected may recognize that their fear of having a serious disease is excessive, unreasonable, or unfounded.
Exams and Tests Return to top
Treatment Return to top
It is important to have a supportive relationship with a health care provider. There should be one primary provider to avoid unnecessary tests and procedures.
The health care provider should tell the person that he or she does not have a disease, but that continued medical follow-up will help control the symptoms. People with hypochondria feel real distress, so their symptoms should not be denied or challenged.
Outlook (Prognosis) Return to top
The disorder is usally long-term (chronic), unless the psychological factors or mood disorder is treated.
Possible Complications Return to top
When to Contact a Medical Professional Return to top
Call your health care provider if you or your child has symptoms of hypochondria.
References Return to top
Moore DP, Jefferson JW. Hypochondriasis. In: Moore DP, Jefferson JW, eds. Handbook of Medical Psychiatry. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2004:chap 92.
deGruy FV. The Somatic Patient. In: Rakel RE, ed. Textbook of Family Medicine. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 61.
Purcell TB. Somatoform Disorders. In: Marx J, ed. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 6th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2006:chap 111.Update Date: 8/24/2008 Updated by: Linda Vorvick, MD, Seattle Site Coordinator, Lecturer, Pathophysiology, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington School of Medicine; and Timothy A. Rogge, MD, private practice in Psychiatry, Kirkland, Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.