What is hypochondria?

Hypochondria, also known as somatic symptom disorder, is an illness anxiety disorder that is characterized by an individual living in fear of having a serious illness, even when medical tests find nothing wrong.

Having concerns about your health at times is normal. But some individuals worry to the point that it interferes with their daily life. Normal health concerns arise when your body is sending you signals telling you that something is wrong. In this scenario, you would visit a doctor to see what was wrong. 

According to the Harvard Medical School, hypochondria is known to affect 4% to 5% of people. However, it is believed by experts that hypochondria is underreported and that the number could be closer to 12%.

It's important to note that hypochondria is a chronic condition. The severity of hypochondria will depend on certain factors such as age, a person's tendency to worry, and their current stress load. 

There are various symptoms associated with hypochondria. These symptoms range depending on the individual.

However, you can expect to have one or more of the following symptoms.

  • Fearing normal body functions: Individuals living with hypochondria may fear normal body functions such as their heartbeat, bowel movements, and sweating. These individuals may feel as if normal functions are a sign of a serious illness. 

  • Fear of minor abnormalities: Individuals living with hypochondria may interpret minor abnormalities in the body such as a runny nose, a small sore, or slightly swollen lymph nodes as a serious issue. 

  • Constantly checking the body: A person living with hypochondria may regularly check their body for signs of illness.

Some people may focus their attention on one particular organ or they may focus on a particular disease such as cancer. Other people living with this condition may focus on one disease after another to seemingly no end. 

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