Your Online Health Information Site



The patient with hypochondriasis has the following symptoms.


·The patient is preoccupied with a fear of having a serious disease

· Normal body signals or sounds are misinterpreted as proof of disease

· Objective thorough examination fails to prove a medical illness

· Despite normal findings the patient insists that there is a disease

· The patient’s preoccupation with bodily symptoms causes significant distress to the point where there is impaired social and occupational functioning

· A variety of symptoms may be involved with hypochondriasis. Examples: heartbeat too slow, too fast, irregular; pronounced bowel activity indicating to the patient colon or small bowel disease; an occasional nervous cough perceived as a sign of asthma; the veins are “aching”; “I must have a tired heart”; dry skin from over-washing the hands may be interpreted as psoriasis; “I am so sick to my stomach”. However, after many tests including a normal gastroscopy the patient will not accept “normal” for an answer.

· Frequent change of physicians and renewed insistence to redo the old tests are behaviors that also point to this disorder

Statistics and course of hypochondriasis

It is not known what the true rates of hypochondriasis are in the general population. However, in a general practitioner’s practice on average there is a prevalence rate of about 6% at all times. Hypochondriasis starts in early adult life, becomes chronic and then waxes and wanes. Only about 5% will recover permanently, the majority carries on. Often underlying other anxiety disorders or a personality disorder will contribute to the chronicity of this condition.



Treatment of hypochondriasis

As already indicated, treatment is extremely difficult, because the patient does not believe the physician. The patient, who believes that something is seriously wrong and will not listen to the evidence of normal tests, cannot be helped. On the other hand, if the patient will allow the physician to refer the patient to see a psychiatrist, there might be a chance that the occasional patient will allow the underlying psychiatric disorder to be treated. However, this is hampered by the fact that this group of patients tends to believe that the “symptoms” are of a physical nature and often will refuse referrals to psychiatrists or psychologists.



1. Dr. David Burns: “Feeling good –The new mood therapy”, Avon    Books, New  York,1992.

2. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth    Edition, (DSM-IV),American Psychiatric Association,    Washington,DC,1994.

3. Dr. Shaila Misri at the 46th St. Paul’s Hosp. Cont. Educ. Conference,    November 2000, Vancouver/B.C./ Canada.

4. JM Loftis et al. J Neurochem 2000 Nov 75(5): 2040-2050.

5. B. Zilbergeld et al. “Hypnosis – Questions& Answers”, W.W. Norton    & Co, New York,1986: 307-312.

6. MH Erickson & EL Rossi:”Hypnotherapy, an exploratory casebook”,     Irvington Publishers Inc., New York, 1979: chapter 8, 314-363.

7. G Steketee et al. Compr Psychiatry 2001 Jan 42(1): 76-86.

8. DS Mennin et al. J Anxiety Disord 2000 July-Aug 14(4): 325- 343.

9. J Hartland: “Medical &Dental Hypnosis and its Clinical Applications”,     2nd edition, Bailliere Tindall,London,1982, page: 326-336.

Last modified: September 26, 2014

This outline is only a teaching aid to patients and should stimulate you to ask the right questions when seeing your doctor. However, the responsibility of treatment stays in the hands of your doctor and you.