Headache = Tumor. Cough = Tuberculosis. Mole = Skin Cancer. Such is the thought process of a hypochodriac. As defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual-IV (DSM-IV), hypochondriasis is an unrealistic interpretation of one's bodily sensations as abnormal, leading to the fear and belief that one has a serious disease (1). This preoccupation with having a serious medical condition is one of the somatoform disorders and may be considered more as a symptom than a disease. In fact, hypochondriacal symptoms often appear as a part of other mental disorders, including forms of depression or schizophrenia (2). For this reason, a close investigation of hypochondriacal behavior is necessary to properly diagnose and treat patients.
There are six major components usually associated with these patients: -Misinterpretation of physical symptoms to constitute a serious disease -Persistence of this misinterpretation, regardless of medical reassurance -Preoccupation of lesser intensity than a delusional disorder -Significant distress and social/occupational impairment because of this preoccupation -Disturbance duration of at least 6 months -The ruling out of other anxiety, somatoform, and/or major depressive disorders (3)
It is important to note that, while the patient may not be suffering from any major disease, his/her perception of the symptoms is real. Additionally, while hypochondriacs may admit to being overly concerned, they will most likely remain dissatisfied until diagnosed with an illness. For this reason, many hypochondriacs will "shop" for doctors who will provide them with such an answer. The negative implications of this include a strain on the doctor-patient relationsh...
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2)Intelihealth: Hypochondriasis , Comprehensive site on hypochondriasis, with material provided by Harvard Medical School
3)Recognizing Hypochondriasis in Primary Care, Report by professors from the Research College of Nursing regarding hypochondria, etiologic theories, forms of the disorder, etc.
4)Hypochondriasis: A Fresh Outlook on Treatment, Article in the Psychiatric Times concerning treatment options for hypochondriacs
5)Psychiatry Matters: Hypochondriasis, basic site with definitions, symptom descriptions, treatments, etc.
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