Psychotherapy :: Psychotherapy for hypochondriacs n health anxiety

Psychotherapy may help hypochondriacs deal with their fears but the treatment has its limits. Some of the patients quit after being told the problems were actually in their heads.

Hypochondria is a mental condition and getting patients to believe that is part of the challenge in treating them.

“Most hypochondriac people never will go to a psychiatrist,” said an author of the study, Dr. Arthur Barsky of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. “They’ll say, `I don’t need to talk about this, I need somebody to stick a biopsy needle in my liver, I need that CAT scan repeated.’ “

Of the one-hundred patients involved in the study, fifty-seven percent of them showed significant improvements after six psychotherapy sessions. Patients learned how to better understand symptoms and new distraction techniques.

Little is known about what causes hypochondria. Some believe it’s genetic while others think it may be learned from parents who overreact to illness.

Some cases begin when patients or someone close to them suffers a serious health scare. The ailment typically starts in childhood or early adulthood and can last a lifetime.

Hypochondria involves persistent, unfounded fears of having a serious illness.

Hypochondria is notoriously hard to treat, in part because patients often switch doctors repeatedly until they get tests or a diagnosis they can accept.

Accepting mental health treatment was not easy because hypochondria had such a stigma. In fact, some psychiatrists and patients call the condition “health anxiety” instead.

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