by Dr.Eva Bell
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.