Health Anxiety Disorder Treatment
Health Anxiety was formerly known as hypochondriasis. It is characterized by a persistent preoccupation with having a serious disease despite getting medical reassurance. People with this disorder may exaggerate the severity of the alleged problem or misinterpret one or more bodily signs (e.g. small sore may be associated to skin cancer). Sufferers of Health Anxiety may feel overly distressed when they experience slight changes in their physiological functioning (e.g. heartbeat, hot flushes). They quickly attribute these changes to their feared illnesses.
They are likely to have an increase of anxiety if they hear about other people’s medical conditions, or if they read about media coverage of a particular disease. They frequently do “doctor shopping” and often complain of not getting proper professional treatment. Family members often become increasingly irritated and frustrated with their constant request of reassurance as well as with their avoidance of family and work responsibilities.
The treatment of choice is Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) which is a sub type of Cognitive Behavioral therapy. This clinical modality has been shown to be very effective in the treatment of sufferers of Health Anxiety.