It is very normal to want to avoid contracting diseases or sustaining body injuries. Most people tend to habitually avoid those things by observing basic hygiene practices like hand washing, vitamin taking, or avoiding contamination of contagious diseases by avoiding the sick. But are you among those who find themselves being abnormally anxious about illness, obsessing about how you may be having serious health complications-all it takes is a slight stomach upset or mild headache to set off such thoughts?
If your answer is yes, then you may suffer from hypochondriasis, most often referred to as illness anxiety.
Hypochondria is a condition whereby there is a constant inaccurate perception of the state of the mind and body, even after a doctor reassures you that there is nothing wrong with you. It may also occur when you have been diagnosed with a minor illness like tonsillitis, but you get paranoid thinking that it could be a serious illness like Cancer or Diabetes.
One may ask, what causes this condition? Was I born with it?
Based on research by Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders: DSM-5. (5th ed.). (2013). By the American Psychological Association. Let’s look at where the condition may arise from:
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) – if you have already been diagnosed with OCD then you’re highly likely to act out in case you have a slight pain in your body, a sneeze or even a slight cough. The problem with OCD is that if you don’t follow through on getting frequent check ups as a result of the obsession, you’re highly likely to end up anxious and in distress.
- Previous traumatic event-you may have in the past had a serious health condition that resulted in your feeling emotionally, psychologically and physically weakened, leaving you with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) manifesting itself as fear, confusion, and depression.
- Depression- major clinical depression could lead to the alteration of one’s psychological patterns, thought processes and physical health. These would have one constantly worrying about their present and future health, feeling very gullible and at risk.
- Psychosis as a result of previous or present mental illness- psychosis is basically a condition where areas in the brain are disrupted changing cognitive, perceptive and processing functions, meaning that the slightest attack against your immune system could have you reacting as though it were a full-blown chronic disease.
- History of illness- if you descend from a family with a long history of health complications, you then end up being too afraid of falling sick, thinking that it may have caught with you.
Being that it is a psychological condition more than any other thing, there is no scientific cure or medication to treat the same.
It is highly advisable to seek professional help, preferably psychological counselling or therapy after confirming with your doctor that there is nothing wrong with your body.
Through this then a hypochondriac can progressively learn how to challenge their assumptions, and change their consequential behavior, eventually killing the anxiety and stress that comes with it.