Hypochondria

by Dr.Eva Bell
(Bangalore, India)

With popular medical articles regularly appearing in newspapers and magazines, and web sites projecting risk factors for heart attacks, cancers, AIDS, and mental diseases, chronic worriers and neurotics have begun to swell the ranks, because they are unable to distinguish between fact and sensationalism. Hypochondria which was known to affect less than 10% of the population at any given time, is now showing a dramatic rise.

What is Hypochondria?

Hypochondria is the obsessive fear of illness in the absence of actual disease. There is a morbid interest in disease, and symptoms are imagined or magnified, so that normal life is disrupted. New symptoms crop up every day. Language used to describe these symptoms is exaggerated. Frequent visits to the doctor, insistence on repeated blood and urine tests, X-rays, sonography etc, are demanded, in spite of all tests being normal. Medicines are consumed even when they bring no relief.


The publicity about AIDS with its varied symptomatology, lends itself to the imagination of the hypochondriac, just as Syphilis did in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Hypochondria was first documented in 1668. The hypochondrium (area below the diaphragm in the abdominal cavity, on either side of the midline, where the liver, spleen, gall bladder, stomach, and pancreas are located) was thought to be the seat of melancholy. It was from here that irrational fear of disease or “vapours” was thought to arise.

There are two groups – those whose symptoms are totally imaginary, and those in whom mild symptoms like a headache evoke fears of a brain tumour, or colic is thought to be stomach cancer. The diagnosis of hypochondria may be difficult, and doctors may be fooled into believing that symptoms are legitimate.

What causes hypochondria?

The cause may be deep seated. Parental rejection, spousal neglect, failure in life, frustration, may trigger off this malady. It is a way of drawing constant attention to one’s self. Many times, the symptoms appear only when there’s an audience. Gradually these people lose the sympathy of friends and relatives, who begin to avoid them. Hypochondria is said to lead to senile dementia.

How to get rid of this problem?

There are sure ways to rid one’s self of this morbid preoccupation with disease.


a) Have a thorough medical check up to rule out any organic disease.

b) Short term psychotherapy can get to the root of the problem.

c) Cultivate a positive attitude to health, and learn to solve problems rather than focus on disease. Most of the worrying we do serves no purpose. Folensbee says, “Worrying merely gives the tense person something to do.”

d) So keep active and busy. Exercise regularly. Relaxation and breathing exercises help a great deal.

e) Cultivate interesting hobbies. Seek the company of lively friends.

f) Take the help of a counselor if necessary. Learn to forgive yourself, and spend time in prayer.

Hope you find this article useful.

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Aug 28, 2012
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Chronic Worrier
by: Anonymous

I am a Chronic Worrier. I worry about EVERYTHING! However, I do not really worry about myself, but for everyone that I love, especailly my children. I worry if they have a headache, that's it's a tumor or a leg cramp, it's Lukemia or a simple wart it skin cancer. If my husband is late coming home, he's had an accident or having an affair(even though he's never give me a reason to feel that way.) I worry about money, even if I have all of our bills paid. I worry about what people think of me and I have extreme OCD. My house HAS to be perfect in case someoen comes over. I however, do not want anyone to know I worry, bc I am embarressed by it, but I think most people catch on real fast. I HATE being this way. I am praying for delivery from this horrible mental illness.

Oct 12, 2011
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Sister that has this disease
by: Kristy

This article was amazing, but I am really curious what we as the outsider of a relative that is a hypochondria can do. My sister has had every disease that you can imagine in the last twenty years and miraculously she has been cured of all of them. She goes to the doctor two to three times a week. She is always think she has ALS and MS, those are the tow biggies.She goes in spurts with her disease but it drives me absolutely crazy, I try super hard to be sympathetic to her but I just can't anymore. I have my own problems to deal with but I don't want to completely turn my back on her with both have children and I love hers and she loves mine. Do you have any advice ?

Apr 02, 2011
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Hypochondria
by: Eva Bell

Thanks Sneha!
Will keep in mind the subject you want covered.Quite an interesting topic to cover.
I hope there will be readers for the health articles.

Apr 02, 2011
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Hypochondria
by: Eva Bell

Thank you Vimala.
Yes, the Internet is making more people become hypochondriacs. Not all info one sees on the Net is reliable.Many indulge in self medication on the basis of what they read.

Apr 01, 2011
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timely
by: vimala ramu

A very informative and timely article. In addition to imagined diseases, the patient of hypochondria is aware of the likely symptoms, cure and misdiagnosis even before he approaches the doctor thanks to internet.The amount of info available on internet is humongous and the hypochondriac imagines himself fitting into one or more diagnoses.If ignorance was the bane of our elders, too much gen is the bane of the present generation.

Apr 01, 2011
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Hypochondria
by: Sneha

Very enlightening, Eva. It's a great step that you and Lakshmi have taken in creating this column. It would be good if you could; in your next column - - talk about menstrual disorders and how to help cure them. A lot of my students and teenagers have a lot of myths that need to be addressed to.

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