Illness anxiety disorder, or hypochondriasis, is a disorder characterized by excessive worry over being ill or becoming chronically sick. A person may have no specific symptoms or signs of an illness and still fear being ill. The concerns about the individual’s health are seen as seriously dangerous or life-threatening in many cases. Any symptoms or unusual behaviors can be seen as alarming and be treated as a sign of a disease, making the person paranoid and mentally stressed as a result. Extreme and excessive anxiety can occur as a result, causing a variety of other symptoms, including twitching, heart trouble, and other physical pains as well. The condition can be experienced as a singular or rare occurrence, as well as on a constant basis, depending on the individual and the treatment options available to them. Hypochondriasis makes a person preoccupied with the idea that they may develop a disease or a condition, or falsely think that they have a particular disease. The effects of the condition can strain the body greatly, or lead to a person developing new disorders, which means that a doctor’s interference may be necessary. For the purposes of this paper, the etiology, symptoms, contributing circumstances, effects and the treatment of the disease will be discussed.
Etiology Of The Disorder
Currently, the particular etiology of the condition remains unknown, as scientists and researchers have not been able to identify the cause. There are, however, several risk factors associated with the illness anxiety disorder, which make a person more likely to suffer from it. Feeling uncomfortable from experiencing normal bodily functions or sensations may give itself to the development of IAD (French, Hameed, 2020). A family history of similar conditions or a large number of relatives with health anxieties can make a person paranoid about their health in a similar way, as well as cases where an individual has suffered from a health condition at a young age (French, Hameed, 2020). Other anxiety-related disorders, such as generalized anxiety disorder can also give precedent to developing IAD (French, Hameed, 2020). Lastly, a correlation between being interested in health and disease-related information, especially if it promotes self-diagnosis can work to that effect as well. The spread of medical information on the internet contributes significantly to the rise in IAD, as it is the fastest way to share and access any information on the topic.
As discussed above, a variety of factors can make a person develop IAD, with some of them rooted in society, and others in a person’s specific circumstances. A stressful time in a person’s life may contribute to them developing IAD, as it is one of the many anxiety-related disorders. Threats of a severe or serious illness that end up not being as severe as anticipated can also influence a person’s perception and make them paranoid in the future (Illness anxiety disorder). Traumatic events during childhood, such as regular abuse may have a similar effect on a person’s psyche, making them less well-adjusted to the struggles of life. The stress endured during the formative years can take on a variety of conditions, including IAD. An individual’s personality, interestingly, also plays a part in their likeliness of developing the condition. If a particular person tends to worry a lot and overthink things, they can be more susceptible to suffering from IAD that other people (Illness anxiety disorder). In addition, the use of the worldwide web for health-related inquires has a strong correlation with Illness anxiety disorder. A lot of information shared on the internet can be either embellished or untrustworthy, making people jump to conclusions and worry incessantly.
Treatment options for this condition are varied, and active research into the new methods of achieving effective treatment is being made on a constant basis. Psychopharmacology has shown some promise with its use, although the effects are somewhat limited as of the current time. The use of such medication as fluoxetine (mean dose = 52 mg/d) (20), fluvoxamine (36), and paroxetine (104) were shown to be more effective than placebos, and the effect was tested for its longevity (Scarella et al., 2019). On an average time span of 8.6 years, 60 percent of the patients no longer displayed symptoms of the IAD, and the remission rates of the patients using this approach were close to 80% (Scarella et al., 2019). Compared to other types of treatment, Psychopharmacology seems to have largely the same degree of effect as cognitive behavior therapy. Speaking of the latter CBT is also seen as an effective tool in treating IAD, as it addresses the symptoms and can affect a person’s mental state with a high degree of certainty. Overall, both approaches are somewhat effective, and combining them was shown to have the strongest result, achieving a 47.2% rate of response (Scarella et al., 2019). However, the use of therapy as a solution for the condition has been well-recoded and seems to generally be more cost-effective than using the medicine for the treatment
Through self-control, it is possible to reduce the frequency and severity of the condition’s symptoms. A person suffering from IAD has to actively analyze their thoughts and actions, as well as their behaviors in relation to self-diagnosis. consciously reducing the number of times one checks their signs of illness and seeking reassurance on not being sick (Illness Anxiety Disorder (Hypochondriasis): Symptoms & Treatments). Avoidance of situations and behaviors that can cause the physical and emotional sensations that contributing to anxiety. The improvement of one’s home life and mental wellbeing can also give a person the ability to suppress the symptoms of the disease (Illness Anxiety Disorder (Hypochondriasis): Symptoms & Treatments). As with other types of anxiety, a person can avoid behaviors that trigger their anxiety to make their symptoms better.
The Effects Of The Disorder On An Individual And The Community
Illness Anxiety Disorder has a variety of effects on the human body and mind. High levels of stress and fear over one’s health status. Obsessive behaviors related to checking one’s health condition and determining whether you have an illness or not is also an effect of IAD. Checking for signs of bodily harm or illness, or showing avoidance over going to a doctor. Direct fear of illness or disease is also one of the effects of this condition, although the specificities of fear may change over time. Depending on the symptoms perceived, a person may decide that they suffer from a particular disease.
In conclusion, Illness Anxiety Disorder is one of the many anxiety disorders that can develop during a person’s life. With an unknown cause, the condition makes a person worry excessively over their health and wellbeing. The risk factors for experiencing this disorder are also varied, as a person’s own character, life circumstances, and the life they live all can contribute to its creation. Coming from a family where health concerns are widespread, or having a history of suffering from disease previously can all affect how one perceives their wellbeing. Even one’s personality can become a contributing factor, as people that tend to worry more can be more susceptible to suffering from anxiety. Treatment options are well-researched and examined even to this day, with medical assistance and behavioral therapy being the most widespread types of treatment. A combination of the two is shown to yield the best results, as it most comprehensively addresses a person’s state. As individuals, people can take note of their behaviors and control the actions they take to best manage and mitigate the effects of the disorder.
Illness Anxiety Disorder (Hypochondriasis): Symptoms & Treatments. Cleveland Clinic. n.d. Web.
Scarella, T. M., Boland, R. J., & Barsky, A. J. (2019). Illness Anxiety Disorder. Psychosomatic Medicine, 81(5), 398–407. Web.
French JH, Hameed S. Illness Anxiety Disorder. (2020). StatPearls. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; Web.
Illness anxiety disorder. n.d. Web.