The Hidden Struggles of Hypochondria

The Hidden Struggles of Hypochondria

BY: Neighbors’ Consejo|

At the mention of hypochondria, many may envision an overly anxious character from a bygone era, comically fretting over imagined illnesses. However, the reality of hypochondria—or illness anxiety disorder—is far from a humorous matter for those affected. This condition, characterized by an overwhelming fear of having a serious disease despite medical reassurance, can lead to significant distress and impairment in daily functioning. This article aims to demystify hypochondria, moving beyond stereotypes to clear-eyed examination of its causes, symptoms, and treatment options.  

“The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), published by the American Psychiatric Association, no longer includes hypochondriasis—also called hypochondria—as a diagnosis. Instead, people previously diagnosed with hypochondriasis may be diagnosed as having illness anxiety disorder, in which the focus of the fear and worry is on uncomfortable or unusual physical sensations being an indication of a serious medical condition.”

According to the Mayo Clinic, “symptoms of illness anxiety disorder involve preoccupation with the idea that you are seriously ill, based on normal body sensations (such as a noisy stomach) or minor signs (such as a minor rash). Some may include:

  • Being preoccupied with having or getting a serious disease or health condition.
  • Worrying that minor symptoms or body sensations mean you have a serious illness.
  • Being easily alarmed about your health status.
  • Worrying excessively about a specific medical condition or your risk of developing a medical condition because it runs in your family.
  • Frequently making medical appointments for reassurance—or avoiding medical care for fear of being diagnosed with a serious illness.

“Illness anxiety disorder (hypochondria) is extremely rare. It affects about 0.1% of Americans. It typically appears during early adulthood. Illness anxiety disorder can affect all ages and genders.”

The Cleveland Clinic affirms that the types of illness are:

  • Care seeking: You spend a lot of time in a healthcare setting.
  • Care-avoidant: You avoid doctors and medical care.

Hypochondria is found in people who: 

  • Have had major stress, illness or a death in the family
  • Were neglected or abused as a child
  • Have serious physical illness
  • Have a mental health issue such as anxiety, depression, a compulsive disorder or a psychotic illness
  • Have a personality that tends to make everything seem worse than it is

“People with hypochondriasis often have other mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression. Treatment of these conditions is important in treating symptoms of hypochondriasis. Your provider may recommend limiting reading medical books and websites. In addition to regular visits with a health care provider who will take physical symptoms seriously, people with hypochondriasis may also benefit from psychotherapy. Studies show group therapy, behavior modification, and cognitive therapy work particularly well.” It is clear that this condition is far more than a simple fear of illness. It’s a complex psychological disorder that requires our empathy, understanding, and patience. For those who live with hypochondria, the world can feel like a minefield of potential diseases, each step fraught with anxiety.


“Hypochondria Definition & Meaning.” Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 12 Apr. 2024.

“Illness Anxiety Disorder.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 19 Apr. 2021,

professional, Cleveland Clinic medical. “Illness Anxiety Disorder (Hypochondria): Symptoms & Treatments.” Cleveland Clinic, Accessed 12 Apr. 2024.

“Hypochondria.” Healthdirect, Healthdirect Australia, Accessed 12 Apr. 2024.

“Hypochondriasis.” Mount Sinai Health System,,cognitive%20therapy%20work%20particularly%20well. Accessed 12 Apr. 2024.

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