Illness anxiety disorder is a mental health condition in which, a person feels that he/she has developed some illness, when in reality, there may be no physical symptoms of the disease. Sometimes, the symptoms of an illness may be very mild, but the person suffering from illness anxiety disorder tends to be excessively worried about the same. This disorder is known as hypochondria in which, a person has a false sense of disease.
Illness anxiety disorder requires immediate medical attention. If left untreated, it can hamper the daily functioning of an individual as he/she might be too obsessed with the idea of being unwell. In its severe form, it is known as somatic symptom disorder.
A person suffering from illness anxiety disorder may consider the natural changes in their body as symptoms of illness. For example, the changes that can be mistaken for the disease may include changes in heart rate and patterns of breathing.
Anxiety can itself lead to many symptoms like panic attacks. Other possible symptoms of anxiety may be feeling shaky, breathing trouble and sweating. Person may even misread these symptoms as causes of some serious illnesses, when in actual it is nothing, but anxiety.
Health consciousness is different from illness anxiety disorder
Being health conscious is good. If you are health conscious, you may find yourself researching a medical condition and trying to understand the disease. You may want to make an appointment with a doctor if you notice some symptoms. However, if you have illness anxiety disorder, you will refrain from visiting the doctor as you will be too fearful of getting diagnosed. This is known as illness anxiety disorder.
Symptoms of illness anxiety disorder:
- Being obsessed with the idea of having serious illness.
- Misinterpreting signs of anxiety as symptoms of illness. This is known as somatic symptom disorder.
- Patients may feel that they have contracted a disease after watching on television or having heard of someone suffering from the disease.
- Continually in need of assurance of their wellbeing, but nothing satisfies him/her.
- Psychotherapy, particularly cognitive behavioral therapy: In this therapy, the practitioner or doctor helps the patients by examining their thought patterns and deliberately trying to change their thoughts and how they affect their behavior.
- Talk Therapy: It can be effective in managing illness anxiety disorder. It helps in changing the way you relate to your disease and come out of your preoccupation with the disease.
- Antidepressants: If the symptoms are caused by some mental health conditions like obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) or depression, then antidepressants can help treat the symptoms.
Once a person is diagnosed with illness anxiety disorder, then proper treatment must be sought, and the patient should strictly adhere to the treatment plan suggested by the doctor.