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Anxiety about diseases - Hypochondria

Anxiety about health can be appropriate and adaptive, because the absence of anxiety about a health problem can be very harmful to an individual, not mobilizing him to look for solutions to the problem.

Like other forms of anxiety, health anxiety is normative, universal, and functional. However, when it becomes excessive and not appropriate to the situation, it becomes dysfunctional and causes suffering.

In some people, this anxiety reaches its extreme, becoming a chronic and debilitating condition - and may meet all the diagnostic criteria for hypochondria.

Anxiety about dysfunctional health (Hypochondria) refers to health-related beliefs and fears that arise from the misinterpretation of bodily signs and symptoms as indicators of serious illness.

Several factors are associated with this psychological condition:

  • concern about having or contracting a serious illness

  • absence of somatic symptoms or present in moderate intensity

  • high alarm with personal health status

  • excessive health-related behaviour, e.g. repeated checks for signs of illness in your body

For different people, excessive health behaviors can manifest themselves through a constant search for medical care or by the total avoidance of appointments, hospitals and health centers.

For those looking for reassurance from medical care, worries are little or not alleviated by repeated examinations, diagnostic testing, or reassurance that everything is fine from a physician. Illness becomes a central element in an individual's identity and self-image, a frequent theme in social conversations and a response to stressful life events.

The key idea is that Hypochondria results from and is maintained by the misinterpretation of bodily signals and sensations, and influenced by dysfunctional beliefs about health. Critical incidents that could trigger it could be: an unexpected physical symptom, noticing previously unnoticed bodily signs, the death of someone close or acquaintance, exposure to information related to a disease, etc.

If you identify with some of the characteristics described above, it may be time to turn to psychological help to help you deal with your anxiety.

Get in touch with the Mental Health Clinic Isabel Henriques so we can try to help you in the best way possible :)

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