Hypochondria: fear of bad diseases

Hypochondria: fear of bad diseases


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People with hypochondriacal disorder fear evil in their own bodies

"Could my headache indicate a brain tumor?" "Is this stinging in the chest a heart attack?" Questions like this are asked quickly by people with a hypochondriacal disorder, because sufferers are constantly afraid of being seriously ill. The pronounced fear of cancer or heart disease often has a strong impact on private life and work, because thoughts only revolve around possible diseases. With the help of psychotherapeutic treatment, however, hypochondriacs can learn to reduce their fears and develop positive thinking patterns.

"Harmless" symptoms are interpreted as signs of serious illnesses. Stinging in the area of ​​the heart, headache or a pulling in the back: People with a hypochondriacal disorder perceive physical reactions like this very pronounced and accordingly quickly suspect "something bad" behind the symptoms Those affected have pronounced fears of having a really serious illness, "Iris Hauth, President of the German Society for Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Psychosomatics and Neurology (DGPPN) told the news agency" dpa ".

What is characteristic of the disturbed perception is above all the exaggerated self-observation of one's own body. However, this is not a bad thing in itself; instead, according to Harald Gündel from the German Society for Psychosomatic Medicine and Medical Psychotherapy (DGPM), "an observation of one's own body [.] Would certainly make sense". According to the expert, however, the problem was that hypochondriacs " would immediately accept evil in your own body ”.

Most hypochondriacs are afraid of cancer. The idea of ​​“evil” is by no means abstract, instead “the prototype of the hypochondriac [.] Has a clear hypothesis,” explains Gaby Bleichhardt to the “dpa”. According to the expert who published a book wrote about the treatment of hypochondria and anxiety, so there is a clear assumption about the cause of the symptoms, according to which most hypochondriac patients are afraid of cancer, followed by heart disease and neurological diseases.

It was also typical that hypochondriacs would not be reassured. According to this, a visit to the doctor can initially make you feel good, but usually after a short time the fear would arise that the doctor might have been wrong or overlooked something. As a result, the inner restlessness and worry remain, often in the hope of reassurance more (specialist) doctors are consulted. In addition to "doctor hopping", many affected people would try to inform themselves as comprehensively as possible in order to gain a feeling of security. "Almost every hypochondriac reads - and reads a lot," explains Harald Gündel. The Internet often helps here, although the expert regards this source of information as critical: "I would strongly advise against going online if there are hypochondriacal fears," warns Gündel.

Children at risk of anxious parents are particularly at risk Various factors come into play for the development of hypochondria, which often play together or influence each other. "An anxious character structure is certainly a risk factor," said Gündel. As a result, those affected often have little confidence in themselves and their environment and live in constant worry that something "bad" could happen. It is often assumed that genetic factors are associated with pronounced anxiety Factors play a role, children with anxiety-disturbed parents are at higher risk of developing an anxiety disorder, and experiences such as serious illnesses or deaths in the family can increase an anxiety predisposition and thereby promote a hypochondriacal disorder.

Cognitive Behavior Therapy to Learn Positive Thought Patterns To treat anxiety, Iris Hauth says that so-called “cognitive behavior therapy” has proven to be effective, which is about reshaping inappropriate perceptions and thoughts that lead to anxiety, anger, and depression develop more positive thinking patterns. In addition, various exercises and techniques for stress relief such as yoga, autogenic training or progressive muscle relaxation can be helpful in hypochondria to reduce physical and mental tension.

In most cases, fear of a serious illness could be reduced with psychotherapeutic treatment, Bleichhardt added. Nevertheless, according to Hauth, there are limits: "The over-concern cannot be treated away." In the best case, however, it can be achieved that those affected can assess their body's signals more realistically in the future and limit the exaggerated safety behavior somewhat - the old behavior patterns could be under stress however, recur at any time.

Image: Maren Beßler / pixelio.de

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Video: Anxiety disorders and obsessive compulsive disorder. Behavior. MCAT. Khan Academy


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