Hypochondria: Definition, Symptoms, Treatment & Causes

Instructor: Vidhi Desai
When we have severe headaches or rashes, we might search symptoms or causes online to give us an idea of what we might have. People with hypochondria (hypochondriasis) do this obsessively. Severe hypochondria can interfere with a normal, healthy lifestyle.



Hypochondria is excessive worry about being sick. Those that suffer from hypochondria are called hypochondriacs. Hypochondriacs have anxiety that they are constantly ill. They truly believe that something is wrong with them and visit doctors frequently to get diagnosed.

Hypochondriacs don't act this way for attention but, rather, they have serious concerns and anxiety about their well-being. For example, imagine your friend Sal has a cut on his finger, so he does excessive research on cuts. If Sal learns about severe infections, then thinks that he might have one of the infections and goes to see three doctors in one day because he's panicked about it, he might have hypochondria.

Symptoms of Hypochondria

Some symptoms include:

  1. Frequent doctor visits: If one doctor declares that Sal is healthy, he goes to two more to make sure because he truly thinks he is sick and that the initial doctor is missing something.
  2. Requests for tests and surgery: Even though certain tests and operations come with risks, hypochondriacs ask for them over and over again.
  3. Severe anxiety about health
  4. Excessive self-diagnosis and research: When hypochondriacs see a news story or an article online about a new disease, they think they have it.
  5. Thoughts that anything unusual with the body means a serious illness
  6. Lack of attendance at work or school due to anxiety over possible illnesses
  7. Constant attention to blood pressure, heartbeat; constant examinations of body to detect something unusual
  8. Constant talk about health issues - these concerns quickly become the center of conversations

Now, it is important to understand that someone who truly has symptoms of the flu (vomiting, headaches, fever, chills) and does research to get a better understanding is not a hypochondriac. That's a normal concern. Someone who experiences one headache and searches all possible issues and believes that they could have all of them may be a hypochondriac.


Treatments for hypochondria include:

  • Counseling: Sometimes, simply discussing fears can help.
  • Support groups: This is when the patient joins a group of other people who have hypochondriasis to discuss experiences and strategies to manage the disorder.
  • Exposure therapy: This is when a mental health professional helps the patient confront fears and teaches the patient how to relax and release anxiety.
  • Medication: Antidepressant and anti-anxiety medication may help release irrational concerns.
  • Discontinuation of alcohol and nonprescription drug use: This avoids any possible interactions with prescribed medicine.
  • Education on hypochondria: Knowing that all concerns may not be valid can help.
  • Exercise: Generally, being active makes people feel better. Exercise may help release stress for hypochondriacs as well.

Causes of Hypochondria

Some causes might be:

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