It's not all in my head: Living with hypochondria

Hypochondria, also known as health anxiety, is a condition characterised by chronic worry about one's health. Those with hypochondria often think they are sick when there is no evidence to support this belief. They may fixate on a certain symptom and believe it is indicative of a serious underlying condition.


Social media is thought to be one of the main drivers of this condition. Hypochondria is on the rise, and it's time to talk about it. In recent years, both social media and the internet has become a mainstay in many people’s lives. It is estimated that over four billion people worldwide use social media on a daily basis. Social media platforms provide access to a wealth of information and connection to others that was previously unavailable. However, the constant availability of information and connection can also have negative consequences. One of these is the rise of health anxiety sufferers.

Hypochondriacs tend to latch onto such information available on the web and become convinced that they are ill. It is therefore no wonder that there has been a marked rise in health anxiety! A new study has found that the internet has worsened the situation for hypochondriacs. The study, which was conducted by researchers at the University of Zurich, found that people who searched for health information online were more likely to be diagnosed with a serious illness.

The study's lead author, Dr. Matthias Kaiser, said that the findings suggest that the internet is "a double-edged sword" when it comes to health information. On one hand, the internet provides people with a wealth of information that can be used to improve their health. On the other hand, Kaiser said, it can also lead people to worry unnecessarily about their health.

The study's findings are based on data from a survey of more than 2,000 Swiss adults. The participants were asked about their use of the internet and their health status.

Annalisa Barbieri's article How I learned to tame my hypochondria reveals what triggered and eventually settled her late-onset hypochondria. Barbieri argues that the rise in health anxiety is due to our 24/7 news cycle and social media. We are constantly bombarded with images and stories of sickness and disease, which can trigger our own health anxiety.

Hypochondria can be debilitating, preventing sufferers from enjoying their lives or pursuing their goals. It can also lead to excessive medical testing and treatments that are unnecessary and potentially harmful. If you think you may be suffering from hypochondria, talk to your doctor about treatment options.

Common symptoms of Hypochondria may include:

  • Thoughts and becoming preoccupied or obsessed with getting or having a serious illness.
  • Worrying that body sensations are symptoms (such as a runny nose).
  • Becoming alarmed quickly about a bodily condition and thinking it is serious.
  • Having little or no reassurance from negative test results.
  • Obsessively checking your body for any signs of potential illness.
  • Avoiding people or places for fear of getting an infection.
  • Constant talk about the disease and booking appointments with doctors for reassurance.
  • Checking social media or the internet for possible signs and symptoms of serious illness.
  • Self-diagnosing via social media or the internet.

If you're one of the millions of adults who suffer from hypochondria, you know how debilitating it can be. You may be constantly worried about your health, even when there's no reason to be. But there is hope. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is an effective treatment for hypochondria.

CBT helps you to challenge your negative thoughts about your health. You'll learn to recognise and question your fears and worries. CBT also teaches you healthy coping skills so that you can deal with anxiety in a more constructive way.

If you're ready to get help for your hypochondria, talk to your doctor or mental health professional about CBT. With treatment, you can start to feel better and take back control of your life.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Wantage OX12 & Rickmansworth WD3
Written by Hope Therapy & Counselling Services, Offering Counselling, CBT, Hypnotherapy, EMDR & Mindfulness.
Wantage OX12 & Rickmansworth WD3

Ian Stockbridge is the founder and lead counsellor at Hope Therapy and Counselling Services. 

As an experienced Counsellor, Ian recognised a huge societal need for therapeutic services that were often not being met. As such the 'Hope Agency'was born and its counselling team now offers counselling and therapeutic support throughout the UK.

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