Illness Anxiety Disorder
by Amy Scholten, MPH
Illness anxiety disorder is persistent fear of having a serious illness. The fear lasts, even when there is no illness. If not treated, the fear can affect daily life.
The cause of this disorder is not known.
Things that may raise the risk of illness anxiety disorder are:
Symptoms are health worries that last at least 6 months. They are very upsetting. They may affect social life and work.
They lead to:
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. If the exam shows no disease, the doctor may order other tests. If no illness is found, the doctor may suspect illness anxiety disorder. Diagnosis is based on fear of illness that lasts:
Illness anxiety disorder is treated with supportive care. A doctor and counselor may work with the patient. The goal is to reduce anxiety and improve functioning.
Options may be:
There are no current guidelines to prevent this condition.
American Counseling Association
American Psychiatric Association
Canadian Psychiatric Association
Canadian Psychological Association
Antidepressant efficacy in generalized anxiety disorder. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/management/antidepressant-efficacy-in-generalized-anxiety-disorder . Accessed March 10, 2021.
Anxiety disorders. National Institute of Mental Health website. Available at: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/anxiety-disorders/index.shtml. Accessed March 10, 2021.
Illness anxiety disorder. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at:
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Accessed March 10, 2021.
Scarella TM, Boland RJ, et al. Illness anxiety disorder: psychopathology, epidemiology, clinical characteristics, and treatment. Psychosom Med. 2019;81(5):398-407.
Somatic symptom disorder. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/somatic-symptom-disorder. Accessed March 10, 2021.
Last reviewed January 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Adrian Preda, MD
Last Updated: 03/10/2021