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Hypochondria is an excessive preoccupation and worry about having a serious illness. This condition is also known as hypochondriasis, health phobia or health anxiety. People having this kind of problem are known as hypochondriacs. These individuals are generally alarmed about any kind of change they notice about their body. Even the slightest symptom may trigger an alarm and make them convinced they have a serious illness. In most of the cases, hypochondriacs remain convinced they are sick, even if the physicians evaluate their health and fail to diagnose any kind of disease.

Symptoms of hypochondria

Preoccupation with physical symptoms, in hypochondria, usually lasts for at least six months. During this period, a hypochondriac feels extreme fear about even the mildest symptoms. These individuals usually show constant self-examination and self-diagnosis, and they are generally preoccupied with their body. However, many hypochondriacs actually develop hypertension or problems related with anxiety, since they constantly worry about their health. Hypochondria may occur at any age, and it manifests in many different ways. Some of the people constantly talk about their symptoms with the others and persistently seek medical help, while the others experience their fear in solitude, and rarely share their concerns with others. Many hypochondriacs live in despair and depression, as they are completely assured they have a life-threatening and incurable disease.

Overcoming hypochondria

Hypochondria can be extremely disabling, but there are a lot of successful treatment methods available. Hypochondriacs do not have to spend the rest of their lives in fear and worry. Various methods such as psychological counseling, medications or just learning about this condition may help to ease one’s worries.

The first step in overcoming hypochondria is to schedule a visit to a licensed therapist for psychotherapy. This is actually the primary method of treatment, which allows the affected individual to share and discuss the worries he or she has been experiencing and learn how to understand them and how to replace them with healthy thoughts and choices.

Exposure therapy is also very successful in treatment of hypochondria. It involves a gradual exposing of a subject to the source of anxiety. The exposure usually takes place in the controlled environment and may help one to recognize that some of the beliefs about the medical condition are completely unfounded.

Certain medications can also help. Doctors usually prescribe tricyclic antidepressants and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, such as fluoxetine (Prozac), fluvoxamine (Luvox) and paroxetine (Paxil), for hypochondria.

The most important thing, however, is to know and understand what hypochondria is. No one has died from hypochondria, but none of us has to live with it. There are a lot of ways to cope with it and to overcome the fear.

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