We’ll help you overcome your fearsEveryone is concerned about their health and that is a good thing. Otherwise, we would have an unhealthily lifestyle, not exercise, eat unhealthily and not protect ourselves from infectious diseases. Health care and disease prevention are essential for survival. The transition to health anxiety (hypochondria) is fluid and differs on an individual basis.
The specialists at Schoen Clinic have been successfully treating anxiety disorders for many years. We are happy to offer you our therapeutic and medical help to change old thought patterns and to get your anxiety under control.
Causes & symptoms
What do we understand by hypochondria?Hypochondria is characterised by the fear of suffering from a serious physical illness. Diseases that could mean a prolonged lingering illness and death are feared. This includes, for example, elevated blood counts, heart attacks and strokes, as well as cancer, HIV infections and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. These fears can occur temporarily, but they can also last longer and then clearly limit quality of life. Patients with hypochondria are mostly aware that the extent of their fears does not correspond to reality. They are often ashamed of it and try to keep their fears secret from others. Frequent visits to the doctor as well as constant checking and reassurance that everything is in order are also typical.
Hypochondria: Causes of the illnessIn the childhood and adolescence of those affected, there are often events that have made it difficult or impossible to deal with physical symptoms in a “healthy” way. These events were highly emotional and involved diseases and physical symptoms. These include:
- An anxiety-promoting parenting style: As soon as physical symptoms occurred, they were dramatised, even if they were harmless. In this way, the children had the subjective experience that physical symptoms are (almost) always something bad and life-threatening.
- A serious illness of their own in childhood and adolescence: Here, too, it was internalised that illness can mean separation from home and is associated with unpleasant feelings such as fear and sadness.
- The serious illness of a family member: This often means that the disease has been a central issue in the family and the child has concluded that illness is always something terrible and threatening.
The result is that the children take the following guiding principles with them into their lives:
“Disease is always (life-)threatening”.
“Health is one hundred per cent freedom from physical symptoms.”
Fears in adulthood are usually triggered by emotionally stressful events, such as death in the family or circle of friends, or as a result of stressful times.
Hypochondria – symptoms: What symptoms occur?Hypochondria is present when the fear of disease determines life or impairs quality of life. Due to the stigmatisation of health anxiety, many of the people affected do not dare to talk about it. Health anxieties often occur together with a panic disorder, with hypochondria focusing on fear of the consequences of the disease in the near or distant future, and panic disorder on an imminent catastrophe (e.g. heart attack).
Comorbid mental disordersMany patients suffer from other psychological disorders in connection with anxieties around illness. Up to 40 per cent are affected by depression, which can occur primarily, but also as a result of illness. Up to 20 per cent suffer from what are known as somatoform disorders, i.e. physical symptoms without any organic causes.
The hypochondriac anxieties lead to illness behaviour with reduced physical activity, further visits to the doctor and examinations. Independent investigations on the Internet can further intensify the anxieties. Constant self-investigations and reassuring family members and friends also have a calming effect over the short term, but an intensifying effect on anxieties over the long term. The person is never one hundred per cent free from symptoms, and the anxiety-free phases become shorter and shorter.
Diagnosis: How we diagnose hypochondriaIt is indicative for the diagnosis that the patients have generally made a large number of visits to the doctor and have undergone organic clarification. This has not resulted in any clear, further findings regarding the symptoms and anxieties. In the case of hypochondria, fear of disease is the main concern, whereas, in the case of somatoform disorders, symptoms for which there is no sufficient somatic explanation are the main concern.
At Schoen Clinic, we address your individual fears and disorders during the diagnostic phase. The clinical diagnosis can be supported by specific questionnaires. Further physical examinations are usually not necessary, but can be arranged at any time if required. If necessary from a medical viewpoint, appropriate specialists will be consulted.