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What is hypochondriasis?

Hypochondriasis is an ongoing fear that you have a serious illness, even though caregivers have told you that you do not. Because you are very anxious about your health, you may go to many different caregivers. When caregivers tell you that you do not have a serious health problem, you may not believe them. Hypochondriasis can make you feel very frustrated and depressed.

What causes hypochondriasis?

No one knows exactly what causes hypochondriasis. The following are some reasons why it may happen:

  • You or a loved one had a serious illness in the past.
  • You had overly protective parents that focused too much on your minor health problems.
  • You have a mental health condition, such as anxiety or depression.
  • You have had a stressful life event, such as the death of a loved one.

How is hypochondriasis diagnosed?

  • Psychiatric assessment: Caregivers will ask if you have a history of psychological trauma, such as physical, sexual, or mental abuse. They will ask if you were given the care that you needed. Caregivers will ask you if you have been a victim of a crime or natural disaster, or if you have a serious injury or disease. They will ask you if you have seen other people being harmed, such as in combat. You will be asked if you drink alcohol or use drugs at present or in the past. Caregivers will ask you if you want to hurt or kill yourself or others. How you answer these questions can help caregivers decide on treatment. To help during treatment, caregivers will ask you about such things as how you feel about it and your hobbies and goals. Caregivers will also ask you about the people in your life who support you.
  • Physical exams and tests: Your caregiver will do a physical exam. He may also do other tests.

What may be done to treat hypochondriasis?

You may need to see your caregiver several times a month. Many people with hypochondriasis are also depressed. You may be given medicine to help with anxiety and depression. Special types of therapy may also help treat your hypochondriasis.

What are the risks of hypochondriasis?

Hypochondriasis can cause you much stress and worry. You may also have tests or receive treatment that you do not need.

Where can I find support and more information?

  • National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), Public Information & Communication Branch
    6001 Executive Boulevard, Room 8184, MSC 9663
    Bethesda , MD 20892-9663
    Phone: 1- 301 - 443-4513
    Phone: 1- 866 - 615-6464
    Web Address:
  • American Psychiatric Association
    1000 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 1825
    Arlington , VA 22209
    Phone: 1- 703 - 907-7300
    Phone: 1- 888 - 357-7924
    Web Address:

When should I contact my caregiver?

Contact your caregiver if:

  • You are not able to sleep well, or you are sleeping more than usual.
  • You cannot eat, or you are eating more than usual.
  • You cannot make it to your next visit.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

When should I seek care immediately?

Seek care immediately or call 911 if:

  • You think about hurting yourself or someone else.
  • You have a rash, swelling, or trouble breathing or swallowing after you take antidepressant medicine.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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