Health Anxiety (Illness Anxiety Disorder)

Health Anxiety (Illness Anxiety Disorder)

Hypochondriasis or health anxiety are second names for illness anxiety disorder. This condition is worrying that the person may be severely ill or may become seriously ill. This disorder has no physical symptoms. Or the body may show normal sensations.

The affected person may experience extreme anxiety and body sensations like muscle twitching or muscle fatigue. This excessive anxiety disorder results in severe distress that can interrupt a person’s life. 

Illness anxiety disorder is a long-term condition and can fluctuate in severity. This increases with age or during times of stress. 


Symptoms of illness anxiety disorder involve a preoccupation with the idea that you’re seriously ill, based on normal body sensations like a noisy stomach or minor signs like rashes. Signs and symptoms include:

  • Preoccupied with having or getting a serious health condition.
  • Minor symptoms or body sensations is a warning that someone may have a serious illness. 
  • Worrying about a specific medical condition or risk of developing a medical condition because of heredity. 
  • Having so much distress about illnesses that it’s hard for the person to function.
  • Checking the body for signs of illness or disease, repeatedly.
  • Making frequent medical appointments for reassurance for any illness.
  • Avoid meeting infected people, places, or activities to reduce the fear of health risks. 
  • Constantly taking tension and talking about health and possible illnesses. 
  • Browsing the internet for causes of symptoms of possible illnesses

The typical cause of illness anxiety disorder isn’t known but some factors may contribute:

  • A misbelief could lead a person to cause this disorder. They may misinterpret that all body sensations or uncomforted feelings are serious, so they search for evidence to confirm whether they have a serious disease.
  • A person is more likely to have health anxiety if their parents had worried too much about their health or your health or they have any disease in the family.
  • A person ever had experience with any serious illness in childhood, so side effects or sensations may frighten them.

The aimed treatment is to help manage anxiety about fitness or health and improve a person’s ability to function in normal life without stress. Psychotherapy and sometimes different medications are added to treatment.


Physical sensations are related to emotional distress and health anxiety needs psychotherapy, particularly cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). This therapy is an effective treatment. CBT helps to learn skills to manage illness anxiety disorder and multiple ways to manage the person’s worries other than several medical testing or avoiding medical care.

CBT helps in ways like:

  • Identifying the fears and beliefs about having a medical condition.
  • Learning alternate ways to interpret the body sensations and by working to change unpleasing thoughts.
  • Become aware of how worrying is affecting the behavior.
  • Change the way a person responds to their body sensations and symptoms.
  • Learning different skills for coping up with stress and tolerate anxiety.
  • Reduce avoiding situations and activities because of physical sensations.
  • Reducing such behaviors of frequently checking the body for signs of diseases and repeatedly seeking reassurance.
  • Improve general functions at home, at work, in relationships, or social situations.
  • Addressing other mental health disorders like depression. 

Other therapies, for example, behavioral stress management, and exposure therapy are also helpful in treating health anxiety. 


Antidepressants, like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), help in treating illness anxiety disorder. Medications to treat mood or anxiety disorders, also help, if they are present.

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