Hypochondria is a health anxiety disorder. It is often chronic. A person with hypochondria is often very anxious about their health. A hypochondriac fears that a real or imagined minor physical symptom is a sign of serious illness. Even when several doctors assure them otherwise, a hypochondriac is convinced that they have a serious disease. Psychiatric counseling and medications can relieve some, if not all, of the anxiety and suffering. Left untreated, hypochondria can be debilitating and affect daily function.

Causes    TOP

It is often difficult to identify a specific cause for hypochondria.

Risk Factors    TOP

Factors that may increase your risk for getting hypochondria include:

  • Family history of hypochondria
  • Having a serious childhood illness
  • Psychiatric disorders such as depression, anxiety, or personality disorder
  • Physical, sexual, or emotional abuse in childhood
  • Observing violence in childhood
  • Stressful experience with your own or a loved one's illness
  • History of personal traumatic experience

Brain—Psychological Organ

Brain Man Face
Chemical imbalances and traumatic life experiences may contribute to the development of hypochondria.
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Symptoms    TOP

Symptoms include:

  • Chronic fear of serious illness
  • Chronic fear that minor symptoms are signs of a serious illness
  • Many physical complaints that often change over time
  • The disorder:
    • Lasts at least six months
    • Causes major distress
    • Interferes with social life or work
  • You may:
    • Check yourself frequently
    • Make many doctor visits, sometimes in the same day
    • Seek repeated tests for the same symptoms
    • Repeatedly research information about specific illnesses and their symptom
    • Change healthcare providers frequently
    • Try multiple herbal remedies or other alternative treatments

Diagnosis    TOP

You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. If the exam shows no disease, your doctor may begin to suspect hypochondria. If further testing also fails to uncover a known medical condition, your doctor may diagnosis you with hypochondria if:

  • Your fear of illness lasts for at least six months and does not improve with reassurance and negative testing
  • No other psychological disorder is causing your fear

Treatment    TOP

Physician Relationship and Monitoring

Effective treatment involves consistent, supportive care from one doctor, often along with a mental health professional. Finding a healthcare provider who is willing to listen to your concerns, provide support, and avoid needless testing is key to recovery.

You may feel overwhelmed by your symptoms. They may even seem to control your life. Schedule frequent visits, regardless of symptoms, with one doctor you can trust. Expect your doctor to:

  • Validate your distress
  • Be supportive
  • Direct your attention away from symptoms and focus it on functioning in daily life
  • Discourage a sense of dependency and disability
  • Recommend psychiatric counseling and educational therapy

Psychological Counseling

Psychotherapy such as cognitive behavior therapy and behavioral stress management can be effective in treating hypochondria. This involves regular counseling with a psychotherapist to recognize false beliefs, understand anxiety, and stop anxious behaviors.

Medications    TOP

Antidepressant medications (such as serotonin reuptake inhibitors and tricyclic antidepressants) may help relieve the symptoms of hypochondria, but there is limited evidence.

Prevention    TOP

There are no guidelines to prevent hypochondria because the cause is not known.


American Counseling Association
American Psychiatric Association


Canadian Mental Health Association
Canadian Psychological Association


Abramowitz JS, Schwartz SA, et al. A contemporary conceptual model of hypochondriasis. Mayo Clin Proc. 2002;77(12):1323-1330. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed November 11, 2014.
Antidepressant use in children, adolescents, and adults. US Food and Drug Administration website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated August 12, 2010. Accessed November 11, 2014.
Greeven A, van Balkom AJ, et al. Cognitive behavior therapy and paroxetine in the treatment of hypochondriasis: a randomized controlled trial (Netherlands). Am J Psychiatry. 2007;164:91-99. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed November 11, 2014.
Hypochondriasis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated October 29, 2014. Accessed November 11, 2014.
Psychotherapies for hypochondriasis. The Cochrane Collaboration website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Published July 8, 2009. Accessed November 11, 2014.
Last reviewed December 2014 by Michael Woods, MD
Last Updated: 12/20/2014

EBSCO Information Services is fully accredited by URAC. URAC is an independent, nonprofit health care accrediting organization dedicated to promoting health care quality through accreditation, certification and commendation.

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

To send comments or feedback to our Editorial Team regarding the content please email us at healthlibrarysupport@ebscohost.com. Our Health Library Support team will respond to your email request within 2 business days.