Hypochondria or health anxiety?
comes in handy when clarifying the relationship between the two terms. It tells us that in 2009 the British Journal of Psychiatry asked the question, “Is hypochondriasis an anxiety disorder?” The answer was a resounding yes
Like Prince, the disorder formerly known as hypochondria has been redefined and people who had once been diagnosed with hypochondria might now be classified as having:
illness anxiety disorder, if the person has no physical symptoms or only mild symptoms — marked by a person’s imagination of physical symptoms of illness.
somatic symptom disorder, when the person has symptoms that are perceived as distressing to them or if they have multiple symptoms —marked by person’s misinterpretation of minor or normal body sensations as serious disease symptoms despite reassurance by medical professionals that they don’t have an illness.
To make it easier, some therapists use the umbrella term health anxiety to describe these cycles of worry.
Why did the term hypochondria get kicked to the curb?
“To eliminate the focus on medically unexplained symptoms,” according to this NY Times article, A New Approach to Treating Hypochondria
. In other words, they learned that the way the term was being used was exacerbating the issue. The new diagnosis “puts its focus on undue attention to bodily symptoms, which, when properly explained, can be very reassuring to patients.”
The poll I ran at work showed me how many people are experiencing some form of health anxiety all alone in their heads. And that, at times, is the scariest place to be.
If you read nothing else in this newsletter, read this: If you find yourself spinning out as a result of sensations you are feeling in your body, you are not alone. And if that spin is affecting your daily life, cognitive behavioral therapy has been proven as an effective treatment for both illness anxiety and somatic symptom disorder.
Change starts with your own curiosity and readiness to explore, fellow voyagers. There are many lighthouses
out there to light your way.