In A Better You, Phobias & Fears, Syndromes & Disorders

Hypochondriac

Being a hypochondriac is not something people can control. In fact for many, it is something that develops slowly over time. While there is a lot of stigma around this term, it is something that not many people know how to deal with. This is why you should have a better understanding of this by understanding what is a hypochondriac and how to deal with a hypochondriac among other things.

Hypochondriac Definition

The first thing to understand is what the meaning of hypochondriac is. While most people understand think they understand the definition hypochondriac meaning is something a little more complex. Yes, as most people assume it is a person who tends to think they have varying medical conditions when they in fact do not. It is also important to note when looking at the definition of hypochondriac that it is also known as health anxiety.

However, this goes much deeper. In many cases, the person may actually feel pain, referred to as hypochondriac pain and other symptoms that may make them think that they have the symptoms of various medical conditions. If you asked someone to define hypochondriac, chances are they would not relate physical symptoms with it.

The most common places for hypochondriacs to experience pain is in what is called the hypochondriac region. This is the ribs and abdomen of a person and where they will generally feel pains that they associate with major illnesses.

What Causes Someone to be a Hypochondriac?

There are several things that may cause a person to become a hypochondriac. The most common is anxiety. For one, anxiety physical symptoms can be felt in weird aches and pains. When you combine this with the mental factor that causes a person to worry and immediately think the worst cases scenario, it is simply a recipe for a hypochondriac.

This is a condition that is not fully known. Many believe that it can come from mental issues, such as anxiety as well as other factors in someone’s life. This can include upbringing, life experiences and much more. The thing to understand is that anyone can be a hypochondriac. They can also establish these symptoms at any time in their life, not just when they are young.

There are a few risk factors that can cause a person to be more susceptible to this condition. This includes having a major illness, especially as a child or knowing someone who does. Also, being subjected to neglect or abuse from your parents. Having a loved one die can trigger this condition. If someone in your family or that you are close with has hypochondria you are at risk for this condition as well.

While the internet is a useful resource that helps people all over the world find things they need on a daily basis, it can actually be quite damaging to hypochondriacs. This is because when they feel a little pain in their side, they cause use a search engine or even a symptom checker online to find out what may be causing the pain. Even though the cause of their pain may be something such as a lack of proper hydration, they may think that they have cancer, appendicitis or maybe even a bowel obstruction.

Symptoms of a Hypochondriac

There are a few hypochondriac symptoms you should know about. By taking this hypochondriac quiz you will have a better understanding as to whether you or someone you care about is hypochondriacal. Here are some of the symptoms:

  • A long term fear of certain illnesses or illness in general
  • Worry that small aches, pains and other symptoms can mean a serious condition
  • Continuously talking about fear of illnesses or symptoms you are having with people you know
  • Frequently checking your temperature, blood pressure, glucose levels or other vitals even though it is not required by your doctor
  • Reading about a disease or condition and then thinking you have it
  • Obsessing over health information and doing extensive research
  • Having very involved procedures done, such as MRIs or exploratory surgery
  • Changing doctors when your doctor tells you nothing is wrong yet you think there is

You may be asking yourself, “Am I a hypochondriac?” and if you found that the majority of these symptoms were something that you go through, then chances are that this could be something you suffer from. However, this does not automatically mean you have it. Rather, you will need to seek out a mental health professional to be evaluated. From there they will be able to give you a diagnosis and help you with the treatment you need to stop this condition in its tracks.

The Difference Between Hypochondria and Normal Health Concerns

Just because you are concerned about your health does not automatically make you a hypochondriac. In fact, it is healthy to be concerned with whether you are being healthy or not. What sets these apart is that people with health anxiety will automatically think the worst case out of their symptoms. A person without this condition will realize that the symptoms can be similar from normal or mild conditions as major ones.

For instance, if a normal person were to experience shortness of breath and pain in their chest after running, they may naturally assume that it is from over exerting themselves. A person with hypochondria will instead think that they may have an aneurysm in their lungs or maybe even that they are having a heart attack.

Famous Hypochondriacs

By looking at some famous hypochondriacs it can help people to realize that this condition is not discerning in who it chooses. People of all education levels, backgrounds and ages can suffer from this condition. Some of the famous people in history who have dealt with this include:

  • Abigail Breslin- You may recognize her as the little girl in Signs or as Little Miss Sunshine. Either way, it is easy to see how smart this young lady. She has talked about her health anxiety in interviews. She said that her fears were irrational, such as stepping on glass even when in bed. It got to the point that she was not allowed to watch medical shows for fear that she would find new conditions she thought she had.
  • Adolf Hitler- What many people do not know about Hitler is that he was always concerned with his health. He was convinced that he had a myriad of different medical conditions. He would have his medical team give him different medications for this. It included medications for diabetes, Parkinson’s disease and many other illnesses.
  • Charles Darwin- Since he is a scientist that is revered, many people think that he would not suffer from something like this. However, he had many perceived illnesses. The way he would treat himself for this was with water baths. This consisted of taking cold baths and being wrapped in and rubbed with cold wet sheets. He was even known to keep detailed records of his flatulence throughout his life.

Dealing With Someone Who is a Hypochondriac

For many people, the thought of dealing with a hypochondriac can be difficult. Your natural reaction may be to tell them the absurdity in their claims or to simply ignore them. However, this is not the most beneficial thing you can do for them. Rather, being supportive is the best thing you can do for them. This takes patience from you but if you care about the person then it is worth it.

There are a few ways that you can be supportive of the person. The simplest way to do this is to try to understand why they think they have the condition. In some cases it may be as easy as rationalizing with the person to help them see the lack of reason in their thinking. Keep in mind that while you may convince them at that moment, that this may continue to be an issue for them. For people with health anxiety, or any anxiety for that matter, reason does not always stop the internal battle over fear of different things.

It is also important to keep in mind that while talking to the person you may not be able to change their mind. You cannot just convince them they are not sick. In many cases, they may just agree with you to make you stop talking about it, but this does not make it any less of a reality for them. It can be helpful to convince them to see a doctor and discuss not only their perceived illness with the doctor but also that people are concerned they are a hypochondriac.

When to Seek Hypochondriac Help

If you find that you have symptoms of hypochondria on this list, then it may be time to seek help. Also, if people are calling you a hypochondriac, then you may want to see someone. Your doctor or medical staff may advise it as well. While this may seem overwhelming, it is not as bad as it sounds. You will sit down with a psychiatrist or psychologist to discuss this. They will ask you questions and get a better understanding of what you are dealing with. From there, they will recommend a course of treatment.

What Can be Done for Hypochondriac Treatment

Even though this is a very difficult condition to treat, there are some treatments that can help. The treatments needed will vary from person to person and it is best to allow your mental health professionals handle finding the right course of treatment for you. However, these are some of the methods they may use as a treatment for health anxiety.

Counseling

This is the main treatment used for health anxiety. There are different methods of psychotherapy that can be used. For instance, cognitive behavior therapy is helpful in many circumstances. This is because it teaches you how to recognize the signs of health anxiety as well as what triggers this for you. On top of this, it also helps you learn how to stop these behaviors. You may even undergo exposure therapy which makes you face the illnesses or things you are scared of as a way to deal with the fear and overcome it. This is generally done in a controlled environment with professionals to ensure that it is done properly and safely.

Medications

If counseling alone is not enough, some psychiatrists will write a prescription for medications. Depending on other issues you may be suffering from you may be given different medications. There are several medications that have been shown to help with this including medications for anxiety and depression. This includes SSRI medications and tricyclic antidepressants.

Education

Another way that can be helpful for treating hypochondriacs is education. By understanding what hypochondria is, you will have a better understanding of it so you can manage it better. However, educating yourself on illnesses you perceive and their unlikelihood is often helpful in many cases as well.

Most hypochondriacs find that their symptoms get better if they can simply resist the urge to jump onto WebMD symptom checker or even just Google and look at their symptoms. This is definitely easier said than done but can be very helpful. Some people find it helpful to block websites that trigger their health anxiety.

Whether you are a hypochondriac or know someone who is, it is important to realize that there is a treatment. It may take time to overcome this and get back to normal, but it is a battle that can be won.

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