Reassuring a Hypochondriac

by Garreth Myers

A hypochondriac is one who believes he is terminally ill, despite no symptoms or evidence of ill health. It is a health phobia called hypochondriasis. Hypochondriacs are people who believe they have a dire illness just after reading about it, either in a book, magazine or on the internet. These people immediately see symptoms of these diseases and go to a doctor. The doctor then conducts tests only to find no illness.

Hypochondriacs are convinced they have diseases despite evidence from the doctor of not having the illness. They don't trust doctors and are constantly suspicious of physicians who tell them otherwise. Hypochondriacs may even develop other physiological disorders like anxiety, clinical depression and obsessive compulsive disorder. The cycle for a hypochondriac is suspicious symptoms followed by frantic checking. They usually imagine they have strange, rare, and terminal diseases. Therapists and research show that being hypochondriacs, these people are very sensitive and tend to exaggerate regular aches and pains and which is why it seems like a new symptom every time. For hypochondriacs, the fear of being ill is what keeps them going, rather than actually being ill.

Nowadays, with the internet and all the data available, there is a new kind of hypochondriac, called the cyberchondriac. Cyberchondriacs read up on the internet and are convinced about the illness they think they have contracted. The internet is not known for always being completely accurate in the information it contains. This makes it very difficult for a hypochondriac who always finds a theory or an illness that matches his or her symptoms. It does not help that drug companies are major advertisers on these sites, fuelling their imagination about strange diseases.

Hypochondriasis affects about 5 per cent of the population, not favoring any one particular sex. For the longest time it was not considered an illness and hypochondriacs were often mocked. It was around 1980 that the disorder was actually considered a physiological disorder.

Hypochondriacs need more than reassurance to completely rid them of their phobia. Hypochondriacs need a lot of support from their friends and family, for whom it can be a very trying time. Hypochondriacs slowly start to get suspicious and untrusting. They believe nobody will take them seriously and often, will even self medicate. Relationships can crumble if you do not take into account that your partner, at times, cannot help himself or herself even if you point out the obvious.

Hypochondriasis is a mental disorder and therefore the treatment for hypochondriasis is not as simple as taking a pill. Curing a hypochondriac sounds like an oxymoron but as it a mental disorder it does need therapy to help the hypochondriac get better. Treating hypochondriacs is a recent development. The key, for a hypochondriac, to get better is to break the cycle of worrying and checking.

Sometimes it takes a combination of therapy and medication and even alternate therapies and procedures to help the person get over the hypochondriasis. There are special therapies which are a combination of cognitive and behavioral methods that are being developed to help hypochondriacs.

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