Ways to Control Hypochondriasis

26 October, 2020
Hypochondriasis is the constant and obsessive fear of contracting viruses or serious diseases such as cancer. Is there a way to control such thoughts? There are some basic strategies. Continue reading to discover how to put them into practice!

Is it possible to control hypochondriasis? How can you reduce this continuous obsession with your health? People obsessed with what goes on with their bodies think a sore throat could be a symptom of a serious infection. They’re convinced that any abdominal pain could turn into something that’ll eventually require surgery. As you can see, many people must put their minds at ease when it comes to what they feel, real or imagined.

The current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) eliminated the term hypochondria as a disorder. They replaced it with two new ones: somatic symptom disorder and illness anxiety disorder. However, a hypochondriac is still defined as someone who’s convinced they have a serious undiagnosed illness. This, despite repeated consultations in which a physician tells them they’re fine.

It’s important to emphasize that the impact on the quality of life of those who suffer from this kind of anxiety disorder can be major. Thus, many of these patients can go into depression in the worst cases. They do so by holding on to their irrational fears because these are difficult to deal with. This is because they’re caused by self-diagnosis and anxiety about the unknown.

These people fear cancer and that they’ll contract a virus, for example. In addition, they feel panic when they think they might contract the disease that someone they knew once had. The personal universe of a person trapped in this clinical condition can be quite distressing. However, knowing some strategies to deal with this kind of thinking is helpful.

“After obsessively Googling symptoms for four hours, I discovered ‘obsessively Googling symptoms’ is a symptom of hypochondria.”

-Stephen Colbert-

A confused brain.

Keys and strategies to control hypochondriasis

Several things happen when a person goes to therapy. They expose their phobias regarding germs along with their fear of leaving home and catching a virus or an incurable disease.

Firstly, they become fully aware that many of these ideas are irrational, they just can’t control them. They can’t be logical about their own fears.

Also, they’re ashamed and have a feeling of contradiction and anger for not understanding why they do what they do and feel what they feel.

Anxiety over an illness or somatic symptom disorder generates a great deal of wear and tear on all levels. They experience discomfort with themselves, experience social problems because they feel disengaged, and often think the health system doesn’t give them the attention their particular case deserves. All of this adds to their discontent and, with it, they feed their basic anxiety even more.

Thus, when it comes to understanding how to control hypochondriacal thoughts, you must understand one thing. Studies such as those conducted at the University of Valencia by Gemma Garcia and Amparo Benlloch emphasize the importance of focusing on intrusive ideas and dysfunctional beliefs in order to treat this disorder.

Hypochondriasis is really a type of anxiety

This kind of obsession isn’t a disease and what’s behind it isn’t only fear of illness. Thus, you must find out what motivates this condition in order to control hypochondriasis. Therefore, you need to understand that what you’re experiencing is an anxiety disorder.

Delimit, understand, rationalize, and keep in mind that your anxiety is the result of your emotions. It’s your mind anticipating things that aren’t even real.

Bodily sensations resulting from stress and anxiety

It’s true that you might experience a multitude of body sensations. It’s also true that you might experience headaches, sore throats, and chest pressure, etc. Don’t worry, as the symptomatology of anxiety and stress is as wide as delimiting sometimes. Don’t look up possible illnesses on the Internet every time you feel a new sensation or discomfort.

Remind yourself that the real cause is your negative thoughts and your anxiety. Don’t be afraid of what your body feels. Learn to accept them without becoming obsessed with them and you’ll feel much better.

This way of thinking is an emotion, understand it and relax

“I’m having trouble swallowing. I think my throat is swollen. Could it be an infection? Maybe it’s cancer!” In order to control these kinds of hypochondriacal thoughts, you must understand one thing. A number of emotions lead you to have one type of thought and not others.

Fear, insecurity, anguish, sadness, and frustration. Many of these emotional realities adhere to the mind by altering the way you think. Thus, stop right in your tracks every time you catch yourself having thoughts about an illness you might have. Then, try to identify the emotion inside you at that moment. Begin to work on it once you can name it.

Accept the fear but don’t feed it and don’t make it bigger

Are you afraid of infections? Of developing cancer? Are you anxious about having a chronic disease? These are all normal and understandable fears. Everyone has them. This is because fear is a normal emotion with a specific purpose. Thus, take action when something frightens you, but do so rationally. In other words, take care of yourself in a healthy way.

As you can see, the last thing you should do is feed the fear and turn it into a crisis. Don’t let it rule you. Harboring fear will only increase your anxiety.

A seemingly tired man.

Reward yourself after controlling hypochondriasis

You wake up in the morning feeling dizzy. You wonder if you’re getting sick. What could be the reason for such discomfort? The next thing you do is turn on your computer and do an Internet search. Well, to control hypochondriasis, you must have some daily strategies.

For example, if you feel dizzy, then sit down and wait for it to go away. Then, remind yourself (rationally) that this is only a symptom of your anxiety. Do something that’ll make you feel better. For instance, take a walk, take a bath, or read a book. All of these are ways to avoid feeding your fear by looking up symptoms on the Internet. That in itself is a good thing and a big step. Therefore, you must reward yourself because you’re making progress.

To conclude, keep in mind that these strategies won’t always bring positive results. Thus, consider seeking professional help so they can help you implement some cognitive restructuring techniques.

  • Arnáez, S., García-Soriano, G., López-Santiago, J., & Belloch, A. (2019). Dysfunctional beliefs as mediators between illness-related intrusive thoughts and health anxiety symptoms. Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy. https://doi.org/10.1017/S1352465819000535