Re-Thinking HYPOCHONDRIA: Its Causes and Treatments

Hypochondria (now known as Illness anxiety disorder (IAD) is the currently accepted medical term for what used to be called hypochondriasis which is worry about having a serious illness. This debilitating condition is the result of an inaccurate perception of the condition of body or mind despite the absence of an actual medical condition. 



Written by Michael Corthell

[This article is for informational purposes only. It is not meant as a diagnostic or treatment tool.]

Illness anxiety disorder (IAD) is the current popular medical term for what was called hypochondriasis(hypochondria).  It is a somatic amplification disorder. It is currently considered a psychosomatic disorder, it is a mental illness with physical symptoms.

A study from 2001 found that between 6 and 10% of primary care patients had symptoms associated with IAD. People with IAD can have very few or no symptoms at all and still firmly believe themselves to have a crippling, serious,  or even life-threatening illness. This fear is constant and color and, interferes with, their everyday lives. Visits to a doctor and diagnostic tests may show that there is no disease, but this does not convince them or relieve their anxiety. Also, people with IAD may actually have a disease, but have a strong belief that they are sicker and more debilitated than they really are.

Persons with IAD (hypochondriacs) are unable to accurately assess the feelings and symptoms in their own bodies, but there are ways to treat the symptoms of IAD and live a more positive life.

What causes IAD according to current medical theory?

Possible factors in the development of IAD:

1. A history of physical or sexual abuse.

2. A history of having a serious illness as a child.

3. A poor ability to express emotions.

4. A parent or close relative with the disorder (children might learn this behavior if a parent is overly concerned about disease and/or overreacts to even minor illnesses.)

5. A genetic predisposition which is simply an inherited susceptibility for the disorder.

Diagnosis can be very difficult and acceptance of the diagnosis even more so. A primary care provider generally rules out all physical causes before suggesting a mental evaluation. But in the vernacular; the illness of IAD is a very tough nut to crack.

Treatment for somatic symptom disorder most often consists of the following:

Positive Supportive Care: In most cases, the best course of action is for the person is to stay in regular contact with a trusted health care provider. Then, the doctor can monitor the symptoms and stay alert to any changes that might signal a true physical illness. The doctor's treatment is likely to focus on reassuring and supporting the patient.

Anti-anxiety meds are sometimes used to treat symptoms, as well as psychotherapy , particularly cognitive therapy, but people with IAD deny there are any mental or emotional problems, making them fairly resistant to psychotherapy. Therefor, strong, loving support network seems to also be one of the best options available.

IAD tends to be a chronic disease that can last for years or even a life-time. Symptoms may come and go. Only a small percentage of patients recover completely. For that reason, the focus of treatment is managing and controlling symptoms, and on minimizing lifestyle disruptions associated with the disorder.

Jesus[God] looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."

I have included this illness in this book, because I believe that it is one of the major road-blocks to positive thought, in fact IAD is the antithesis of positive thinking.

It is my and others opinion that many mental illnesses are on a continuum. On one end of the scale the symptoms are in perceptively mild, and on the other end they are extremely pronounced. I included this statement because it should be made clear that none of us have no standing or right, whatsoever, in criticizing or make fun of anyone with any mental illness, for that would be hypocrisy.

Finally, something that is not covered above. Prayer. It has been said by myself and many, many others that all things are possible with God. Pray for healing. I will leave you with that.


Rethinking anxiety: Learning to face fear

by Dawn Huebner

We are hard-wired to shrink away from the things that scare us – to fight, flee or freeze in the face of danger. That’s a good thing, but anxiety is about perceived danger, which is different from actual danger. When we act based solely on nervous feelings, our worlds can become very small. Our desperate attempt to avoid discomfort and uncertainty fuels anxiety, and avoidance locks it in place. Yet we can take back control. We can learn to face our fears rather than running from them.

Dr. Dawn Huebner believes we can all be taught to overcome fear and anxiety. In this engaging talk she explains how anyone, at any age, can conquer debilitating fear. A clinical psychologist in private practice, she treats children with a variety of emotional, behavioral and developmental concerns.

Huebner is the author of “The What To Do Guides for Kids” series, which not only reflect her beliefs about empowerment, but also provide practical advice for parents and children. Her personal journey as a parent, however, led Huebner on a quest to find ways of using cognitive-behavioral therapy as an approach. With simple language and humor, she presents sophisticated concepts in a way easily understood by everyone. These concepts, in book form, have been translated and sold in 12 different languages worldwide. Learn more about Dr. Dawn Huebner at


This video speaks for itself: