Illness Anxiety Disorder

GinaMarie Guarino, LMHC GinaMarie Guarino, LMHC

Illness Anxiety Disorder

Illness anxiety disorder is a condition in which a person has an intense fear of becoming ill. It may also be referred to as hypochondriasis, hypochondria, or illness anxiety. People with illness anxiety will mistake normal bodily sensations for symptoms. Illness anxiety causes an intense fear of becoming ill. This leads to a person convincing themselves that they are unwell on a chronic basis.

Illness anxiety will cause people to feel convinced they are ill. This will be the case even when there is no evidence of illness. Normal bodily changes or minor conditions are mistaken for a life-threatening illness. People with illness anxiety will often seek medical attention for their symptoms. They attend medical appointments convinced that something is critically wrong with them.

People with illness anxiety often become untrusting and resentful toward doctors. This is due to being repeatedly told that there is nothing medically wrong with them. Affected people believe that they are suffering from a medical emergency. Because of this, hearing from a doctor that they are fine can be confusing and frustrating. This creates distrust for many people with illness anxiety. As a result, they begin to avoid doctors and medical offices.

Symptoms Of Illness Anxiety Disorder

Symptoms of illness anxiety are more intense than worrying. It is more than a person allowing their imagination to get carried away. A person with illness anxiety will truly believe that they are ill. They may also be resistant or dismissive of the idea of having illness anxiety. To best identify and treat a case of illness anxiety, it is important to know the symptoms. Symptoms of illness anxiety include:

  • Fear of normal bodily functions
  • Mistaking anxiety symptoms for medical distress (racing heartbeat, sweating, muscle tension, etc.)
  • Constant checking and evaluating areas of the body
  • Seeking potential symptoms of medical illness
  • Distress in reaction to harmless body abnormalities (runny nose, rash, body aches, etc.)
  • Pre-occupation with the functioning of specific organs or bodily systems
  • Obsession or hyper-attention on specific diseases
  • Constant worrying about overall health
  • Affected relationships. This is due to excessively talking about their health, perceived illness, and symptoms
  • Frequent doctor visits
  • Web searching perceived symptoms and symptoms of illnesses
  • Growing distrust and avoidance of doctors
  • Feeling frustrated or more anxious with negative exam and lab results

Causes Of Illness Anxiety Disorder

Illness anxiety may be caused due to a number of factors. It is a condition that can be learned through modeling, genetics, or trauma. Everyone’s reason for developing illness anxiety is different. Despite the difference, there are common factors that contribute to the condition. The following are common causes of illness anxiety:

History of trauma, abuse, or neglect. Children who experienced abuse are at risk of developing illness anxiety. This is also the case for children who were neglected in some way. Adults who have experienced trauma may also be at risk of developing the.

Modeling from a parent or family member. People with illness anxiety often have family members with it as well. The behaviors and anxieties can be learned by children through modeling. Modeling is when adults model behaviors that children mimic and internalize. Typically, the modeling occurs the most with close family members (siblings or parents).

Pre-existing condition of anxiety. A pre-existing condition of anxiety is often in cases of illness anxiety. Illness anxiety is an anxiety disorder. It can co-occur with other forms of anxiety and mental health.

History of Illness. People with illness anxiety may have suffered from illness in the past. They may also have had a family member who suffered from chronic illness. Each experience can create fear and anxiety about developing some form of illness.

Treatment For Illness Anxiety Disorder

Illness anxiety disorder is treatable. It can be challenging to treat at first because affected people believe they are ill. If left untreated, the condition can worsen. It can also lead to other issues, like depression or other mental health disorders.

In some cases, medication may be prescribed, but the primary treatment is therapy. A person with illness anxiety needs to speak with a therapist. A therapist can provide information about the condition. Therapy can also provide a safe space for a person to confront their beliefs and fears. In such a space, they can come to terms with their diagnosis of illness anxiety disorder.

Therapy is important for a person with illness anxiety. It often occurs where a person with illness anxiety begins to not be taken seriously by their doctor. This can not only impact the relationship between patient and doctor. It can also prevent the affected person from getting proper care if they are experiencing a medical issue.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is often used to treat illness anxiety. It helps the affected person confront their anxiety constructively. CBT teaches the client how to challenge anxious thoughts. The client is then able to think logically and identify if the worry is coming from anxiety or a real medical condition.

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