Do you often worry about all kinds of physical symptoms?
Are you convinced that these symptoms indicate a serious illness?
Do you often visit the doctor because of your fear of serious conditions?
Then you probably tend to be hypochondriac .
Hypochondriac behavior is being so obsessive about all kinds of physical symptoms that one is convinced that one is suffering from a serious illness.
When thinking of hypochondria, many outsiders think of affectation. However, a hypochondriac does feel pain and is really concerned about his health.
In this article you will learn everything about hypochondriac behavior and you will get an answer to the question: ‘What is a hypochondriac?’ Curious to know if you suffer from hypochondria, read on carefully.
What is a hypochondriac?
A hypochondriac is someone who often worries about their health. Typical hypochondriac behavior is being very obsessive with the body, with all kinds of changes and with symptoms that may indicate a serious illness.
Hypochondria can take different forms. Some hypochondriacs focus on a particular illness. Cancer is one of the most feared diseases of hypochondriacs.
Others think they are suffering from one serious condition after another, depending on the symptoms they experience, but also depending on the information that comes to them.
In general, one speaks of hypochondriac behavior if your concern lasts for at least six months.
“Hypochondriac, what’s that?” I often hear from my students. Many outsiders wonder if hypochondriac behavior isn’t an affectation or if hypochondriacs aren’t just looking for attention.
You may also have all kinds of complaints that you are convinced that indicate a serious illness. But when you go to a doctor’s visit, there appears to be nothing medically wrong at all. How can we explain this?
Gene Weingarten , American journalist, Pulitzer Prize winner and author of the book The Hypochondriac’s Guide to Life – and ex-hypochondriac himself – puts it this way: “Outsiders don’t understand that the hypochondriac does not imagine that he is in pain, but that pain really feels.’
If you suffer from hypochondriac behavior, you really do have pain or do indeed show certain physical symptoms. However, this pain and these symptoms are completely disproportionate to the seriousness of the problem, if any.
An example to clarify this:
You feel a little feverish and have some headache. Most people don’t dwell on this for long. They check their temperature in the morning and in the evening, have a good rest and take a paracetamol.
As a hypochondriac, however, this feeling is immediately the harbinger of an infection with the new Coronavirus. You take your temperature every fifteen minutes and 37.1° immediately makes you suspect that you are having a serious fever attack.
You focus on the color of your throat and you try to remember if it looked just the same last week. Is my throat a little red now? Do I see white dots in the back of my throat? Just feel if the glands in my neck are not swollen.
Still, I should visit the doctor to perform a Covid-19 test because that colleague who was less than one and a half meters away probably infected me. Oh no… I definitely have Corona!
Do you notice the difference?
Everyone feels unwell from time to time, but a hypochondriac immediately assumes that something serious is going on.
According to Professor Sako Visser , clinical psychologist/psychotherapist and professor of health care psychology at the University of Amsterdam, a hypochondriac suffers from an extreme fear of illness and tries to avoid this fear as follows:
- You frequently check your body
- You seek reassurance, be it from family or friends, doctors or even the internet
- You avoid situations and activities that fuel your anxiety.
If you often think that you are seriously ill and you suspect that you also exhibit hypochondriac behavior, the list of symptoms below can help you know for sure.
Symptoms of hypochondriac behavior
#1: You constantly watch your own body
If you suffer from hypochondriac behavior, you are constantly looking out for all kinds of physical symptoms.
These can be symptoms such as headaches, stomachaches, cramps, swollen glands, pain, decreased strength in your limbs, etc.
You are also extra alert to changes in your body. This way you immediately notice a spot if it was not there before, you immediately notice if you are more thirsty than before or if you have just lost your appetite.
The more you monitor your own body, the more physical symptoms or complaints you notice. These prove to you that something is really wrong.
#2: You feel anxious with symptoms or complaints
The symptoms you experience or the symptoms you observe immediately make you think of a serious illness.
The more you pay attention to these symptoms or signs, the greater your fear of a disease becomes!
This naturally means that you increasingly pay attention to these complaints and your fear of a disease can even take such an extreme form that you get an anxiety attack as a result .
#3: You go to the doctor very often or not at all
If you suffer from hypochondriac behavior, you either visit the doctor often or you just avoid visiting the doctor for fear of a serious illness.
If you often visit the doctor, then you mainly look for confirmation in the disease you think you have.
As a hypochondriac, you will be reassured for a moment, but after a while you will focus on the same or other symptoms and remain convinced that you have or will develop a serious illness.
Result: a second or even a third doctor’s visit. If your doctor still doesn’t find anything, you often go for a second opinion or consult a specialist.
#4: You avoid activities and certain situations
As a hypochondriac, you often avoid intense activities.
It will happen to you that you have a heart attack while running or have a stroke on a roller coaster.
Some hypochondriacs go so far as to avoid certain social situations as well. They fear that illnesses will be talked about at parties or gatherings, causing them to focus on the symptoms of these conditions.
#5: Doctor Google is your best friend
How did you come across this article? Chances are, you searched the internet for hypogonder behavior.
Hypochondriac behavior is also characterized by constantly looking for symptoms and illnesses on the Internet.
You look for an explanation for your physical complaints and you rely on the advice of doctor Google. This can indeed be reassuring, but it can also have the opposite effect.
For example, if you type in the word headache, chances are that Google will immediately present you as “brain tumor” as the search result. This has to do with the popularity of the words and not at all with the quality of the articles.
Scientists have a word for this phenomenon, by the way: cyberchondria.
Hypochondriac behavior is not only annoying and exhausting for yourself, but your environment can also suffer considerably.
As a hypochondriac you are always looking for confirmation and before you see a doctor you have probably already raised your problems with family or friends several times.
Sharing your concerns can bring relief for a while, but if after a while your anxiety takes over again, your loved ones – however important you are to them – will not always show the necessary understanding.
It is therefore important that you overcome your fear yourself so that hypochondria no longer controls your life. Difficult do you think? Not at all!