Health anxiety, otherwise known as hypochondria, sees individuals worry obsessively about their health to the point where it begins to impact day-to-day functioning on a significant level.
Signs of hypochondria include:
- A preoccupation with having a serious illness (because of body symptoms) for six months or longer.
- Feelings of distress that are caused by the preoccupation.
- A need to ‘self-diagnose’ the problem by searching for information on the Internet or through carrying out self-examinations.
- Disbelief or feeling unsure over an official diagnosis from the GP.
According to the study, 14 per cent of patients who underwent CBT exhibited anxiety at almost normal levels, compared to only 7 per cent of those who were issued standard care (which generally involves reassuring the patient).
Figures suggest that 10 – 20% of hospital patients worry obsessively about their health, an issue that could eventually be tackled effectively and efficiently if nurses were to receive training in this psychological therapy.
Implementing a system where patients with health anxiety received CBT would also save healthcare providers huge amounts of time and money. Currently, a large percentage of funds are spent carrying out unnecessary tests and tending to preventable emergency hospital admissions, not to mention the time it takes to see to all of these patients.
Author of the study and head of the Centre for Mental Health at Imperial College London, Peter Tyrer, said the results show that hypochondria could be successfully treated with CBT, so the sooner we can begin using this cost effective treatment the better.
In the past, various studies have suggested that CBT is an effective treatment for numerous anxiety disorders, but there is currently a shortage of practitioners who are trained in this area and thus waiting times can be extremely long.
If you have exhibited any of the symptoms listed above and believe you may be experiencing health anxiety, visit your GP to discuss your options. If your GP refers you over for CBT treatment and you find that you face a long waiting list, bear in mind that many private counsellors and psychotherapists specialise in and provide CBT. Visit our CBT fact-sheet for further information about this type of therapy, or visit our homepage to carry out a search for a CBT counsellor in your local area.