Home  -  Back Issues  -  The Team  -  Contact Us
     Volume 4 Issue 39 | March 25, 2005 |

   Cover Story
   News Notes
   Straight Talk
   Slice of Life
   Time Out
   Dhaka Diary
   New Flicks
   Book Review

   SWM Home



Are You A Hypochondriac?

Hypochondria is a belief that real or imagined physical symptoms are signs of a serious illness, despite medical reassurance and other evidence to the contrary.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors
A person suffering from hypochondria is preoccupied with physical health and has an unrealistic fear of serious disease well out of proportion to the actual risk. There is no specific cause of hypochondria, and it occurs in men and women with equal frequency.

*preoccupation with fear of illness
*persistent fear of having a serious illnesses despite medical reassurance
*misinterpretation of symptoms
*symptoms that may shift and change
*symptoms that may be vague or specific
*no apparent physical disorder that can account for symptoms
*disturbance lasting for at least 6 months (24 weeks)
The affected person may recognise that the fear of having a serious disease may be excessive, unreasonable or unfounded.

Signs and tests
A physical examination should be performed to rule out an underlying organic disease. A psychological evaluation should be performed to rule out other related disorders.

A supportive relationship with a health care provider is the mainstay of treatment. There should be one primary provider to avoid unnecessary diagnostic tests and procedures. The health care provider should inform the person that no organic disease is present, but that continued medical follow-up will help control the symptoms. The person with hypochondria feels real distress, so the symptoms should not be denied or challenged by others.

Expectations (prognosis)
Generally, the disorder is chronic (lasts for a long time) unless the psychological factors or any related underlying mood disorder are addressed.

*There is a possibility that a real disease may be overlooked in people with hypochondria because their previous complaints were unfounded.
* Complications may result from invasive testing and multiple evaluations looking for the cause of symptoms.
* Dependence on pain relievers or sedatives may develop.
*Frequent appointments with health care providers are typical, and time from work may be lost.

Below is a list of questions about your health. For each one, please circle the number indicating how much this is true for you. A high score is an indication that you could profit from talking this over with your doctor.
1 = Not at all
2 = A little bit
3 = Moderately
4 = Quite a bit
5 = A great deal
1: Do you worry a lot about your health?
2: Do you think there is something seriously wrong with your body?
3: Is it hard for you to forget about yourself and think about all sorts of other things?
4: If you feel ill and someone tells you that you are looking better, do you become annoyed?
5: Do you find that you are often aware of various things happening in your body?
1 2 3 4 5
6: Are you bothered by many aches and pains?
1 2 3 4 5
7: Are you afraid of illness?
1 2 3 4 5
8: Do you worry about your health more than most people?
1 2 3 4 5
9: Do you get the feeling that people are not taking your illnesses seriously enough?
1 2 3 4 5
10: Is it hard for you to believe the doctor when he/she tells you there is nothing for you to worry about?
1 2 3 4 5
11: Do you often worry about the possibility that you have a serious illness?
1 2 3 4 5
12: If a disease is brought to your attention (through the radio, TV, newspapers, or someone you know), do you worry about getting it yourself?
1 2 3 4 5
13: Do you find that you are bothered by may different symptoms?
1 2 3 4 5
14: Do you often have the symptoms of a very serious disease?
1 2 3 4 5
The higher the score the more hypochondriacal you are likely to be. There is no set cutoff score, but healthy people without health anxiety generally have a score of 21 +/- 7 (14 to 28). Patients with hypochondria are found to have a score of 44 +/- 11 (32 to 55). These numbers are merely indications to help you find out if you have hypochondria. If your score is high we suggest you talk to your doctor about it - may be he can advice you where to find help.
Notice that if you are depressed you also might get a high score, and your hypochondriacal ideas might be secondary to your depression. The same is true if you have a specific or general anxiety disorder. In both instances you can talk to your doctor about this.

Source: Yahoo Health

Copyright (R) thedailystar.net 2005