Hypochondriasis can be described as an irrational obsession created through the misinterpretation of bodily symptoms. These individuals may develop a marked sense of anxiety, fear, and preoccupation with a feared disease or illness. For example, an individual who has Hypochodriasis and experiences a headache, may come to believe that this is a symptom of a brain tumor. These irrational fears can motivate individuals to perform research on the “disease”, seek out medical attention or avoid it all together. These individuals will also seek out reassurances about their health and their feared illness. These reassurances, though creating some relief in anxiety, are often fleeting as the fears will return. These obsessions can impact these individuals occupationally, socially, and interpersonally.
The preferred treatment for Hypochondriasis is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). This therapy uses an approach called Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP). ERP allows individuals with Hypochondriasis to experience the various events that cause them anxiety, while learning to tolerate the anxiety rather than seeking reassurance or doing a compulsion to quickly experience some relief. ERP assists individuals with Hypochondriasis to become desensitized and/or tolerate the obsession without the marked anxiety.