Health Anxiety / Hypochondria Symptoms

Health anxiety, which is otherwise known as hypochondria, is a condition that is defined as constantly worrying about one’s health. When one has troublesome thoughts about one’s health, it may in fact be health anxiety. Such kind of worries lead to distress and anxiety that is sufficient enough to impact the individual’s daily activity.

Image Credit: CREATISTA / Shutterstock
Image Credit: CREATISTA / Shutterstock

Types of health anxiety symptoms

It is natural for people who suffer from a medical condition to worry about their ailment. Yet, there are others who have medically unexplained symptoms such as headaches, stomach pains, and chest pains, which induce severe anxiety and worry about the fear of having developed a serious disease. These people also lack faith in a medical or physician report.

Some people with health anxiety worry about health issues that they think they may develop in the future.

People affected with hypochondria are often on the alert for any symptoms of disease in their bodies. The more they analyze, the more hypochondriac they become. They feel that they have the illness they fear, and may therefore either obsessively avoid or search for any information related to it. For instance, individuals with hypochondriac tend to obsessively read about the illness they fear they have or watch programs related to it.

Body-related symptoms

Sensation: Every patient with hypochondria complains of odd sensations in one or more parts of the body. The sensation may be reported to be in the legs, arms, fingers, hands, feet, and sometimes in the entire body. It may include a feeling of vibration, shaking, or buzzing.

Aches in the body: This is a common symptom of hypochondriacs. They seem to perpetually be suffering from headaches, stomach aches, or whole-body aches. Most often, these are subjective complaints, although some patients may really have pain.

Breathing:  Most hypochondriacs report alterations in their breathing pattern, which they are convinced are abnormal. Some patients may also have difficulty in breathing, and they are frequently found to breathe through their mouth.

Pain: Hypochondriacs typically complain of mild or severe chest pain. It may be present constantly or recur throughout the day. Some people manage to live with it, while others may report intense pain and the feeling of tightness in the chest.

Restlessness: Due to their thoughts about illness, hypochondriacs are frequently restless. They may often display total unawareness of what they are doing or why they do certain things.

Urination: People with health anxiety are nervous and fearful, which may be responsible for a frequent urge to urinate. In fact, these individuals may urinate twice in a span of half an hour.

Churning: The feeling of having butterflies in the stomach is called a churning stomach. Patients may feel pain or uneasiness in their gut throughout the day or week, which may lead to some patients skipping their meals.

Sweating: Excessive sweating may be a significant sign of health anxiety. Patients may sweat in unexpected situations, even when they are in an air-conditioned room.

Numbness: Numbness can be an illusion, or it can be real and may be reported to occur in different parts of the body, especially in the fingers, hands, arms, and toes.

Other common symptoms

Sufferers from a health anxiety disorder exhibit a range of symptoms that are reflected in the way they feel, think, behave, and by the changes in their bodies.

Feelings-related symptoms

Individuals with health anxiety are often chronically anxious, frightened, tensed, and nervous. These individuals also report fear for their health or feel out of sorts all the time, and are often dissociated from the real world due to their obsessive worrying about a condition that they actually do not have. Furthermore, hypochondriac will also often feel lazy or tired and unwilling to do much work

Thought-related symptoms

Hypochondriacs typically have the following thought patterns:

  • Frequently worrying about their health with or without a reason
  • Expect the worst to happen and make preparations for it, even when there is no need to
  • Have recurring thoughts about illness and its related symptoms
  • Be alert to each part of the body and make frequent examinations
  • Have frequent thoughts of visiting the doctor just for the sake of reassurance
  • Have lingering doubts that the doctor has missed making the true diagnosis
  • If affected by illness, conclude that some other illness will soon follow
  • Assume that they have a serious disease and then focus on trying to dismiss all thoughts of it
  • Are afraid of sharing their thoughts with family and friends

Self-assuming symptoms

Hypochondriacs recycle thoughts on diagnosing their own aches and pains, as follows:

  • I have a serious cancer
  • This headache must be a sign of a brain tumor.
  • I will surely die if I don’t have surgery.
  • A tingling sensation can be a sign of stroke, and this is going to be a severe one.
  • I have developed some additional symptoms since I last consulted the doctor.

Focusing on such thoughts worsens the symptoms of health anxiety. For instance, if one keeps checking for signs such as bumps and rashes, it is quite probable that they will actually be found sooner or later.

Hypochondriacs need to reassure themselves that these are not necessarily serious conditions, but just more or less normal changes that have occurred in the body. They should keep themselves from becoming anxious about such symptoms and rechecking themselves all the time in case they are signs of a serious condition.  

References

Further Reading

Last Updated: Feb 17, 2023

Dr. Liji Thomas

Written by

Dr. Liji Thomas

Dr. Liji Thomas is an OB-GYN, who graduated from the Government Medical College, University of Calicut, Kerala, in 2001. Liji practiced as a full-time consultant in obstetrics/gynecology in a private hospital for a few years following her graduation. She has counseled hundreds of patients facing issues from pregnancy-related problems and infertility, and has been in charge of over 2,000 deliveries, striving always to achieve a normal delivery rather than operative.

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