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January 12, 2022


Don’t be a hypochondriac

Some folk appear to get sick more often than others. Some will end up getting a definite diagnosis. Others will go through a thorough medical evaluation and nothing the matter will be found. But such folk will continue to worry themselves silly about innocuous symptoms. Sounds familiar? It’s called health anxiety, or hypochondriasis in medical terms.

Hypochondriasis is the result of an inaccurate perception of your overall health status. This is in disregard to objective evidence of the absence of an actual medical condition. You literally become unduly alarmed by mundane symptoms, to the extent of seeking medical help. At the back of your mind, you are constantly thinking about being diagnosed with a serious condition. You might end up going from one doctor to the other. Repeated evaluations don’t usually yield any tangible illnesses, but you continue to worry. Well, at this point, you have become a hypochondriac.

Why does the condition occur? Hypochondriasis is a disorder of perception and extreme vigilance of the status of your health. You get more inclined to misinterpret inconsequential symptoms for something more serious. You will end up consulting unnecessarily, and cross-checking again and again just in case there has been a misdiagnosis. Your worries may be triggered by something that happened to a close family member, or a friend. Some hypochondriacs are known to suffer from other psychological disorders, like depression.

If you exhibit persistent beliefs of being afflicted by serious disease, and there is hardly any objective evidence to support your hypothesis, you may be labelled as hypochondriac. The longer the duration of your perceived symptoms, the more you fit into the diagnosis. Multiple consults, tests and further reviews will have drawn a blank. You may even have been put on some medication, without any apparent improvement.

Medics struggle with hypochondriacs. Some patients will improve with behavioral therapy, and others may require specific medications to ease their anxieties. Successful treatment usually requires a team of specialists working together. Hypochondriacs get very frustrated when they seek medical help, only to end up with all the evaluations negating the presence of any serious disease.

Many people experience transient spells of health anxiety, without ever getting to the point of hypochondriasis. If you have minor and inconsequential symptoms, there’s no point pursuing them endlessly. If a comprehensive medical evaluation turns up with nothing, don’t go looking for something else. If you seriously think something has been missed out, go ahead and seek a second opinion. But if this turns out the same, stop it at that. Worrying unnecessarily when there’s nothing wrong with you will surely make you mental. Don’t do it.

Dr Alfred Murage is a Consultant Gynecologist and Fertility

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