You are lying awake – again – worrying about that stomach ache you get every few weeks. You've been to the GP, you've been to the specialist physician and they've all reassured you that you are fine. A slight case of indigestion - nothing more. But you are sure they are wrong.
In fact you have already updated your will and cleaned out all your cupboards and put your children's names on the pieces of furniture you would like them to have. Because you are sure you are on your way out. Are you psychic or just plain hypochondriac?
What is a hypochondriac?
A hypochondriac is someone who is preoccupied with their physical health in an obsessive manner. The person is convinced for at least six months that they are seriously ill, despite the fact that doctors have reassured him that there is nothing wrong. This obsession has an impact on their daily lives, their relationships and leads to all sorts of unnecessary – and expensive – medical treatments.
Hypochondria is equally common amongst men and women and is found in all age groups and social classes.
Hypochondriacs tend to misinterpret normal physical signs, such as a headache. Whereas a person who is not a hypochondriac will take a painkiller and forget about the headache, the hypochondriac will be convinced that it points to the presence of a brain tumour. This doesn't mean one shouldn't be vigilant about your health - but it comes to a point where this vigilance becomes a debilitating condition in itself.
And of course, all the medical information available on the internet adds grist to the mill of any hypochondriac. In fact, there's a term for this: cyberchondria.
So are you a hypochondriac? Answer the following questions as honestly as you can:
- 1. Do you worry about your health more than most people do? Yes/No
- 2. If you've been ill and someone tells you you're looking better, do you feel annoyed? Yes/No
- 3. Are you bothered by many aches and pains? Yes/No
- 4. Do you think there is something seriously wrong with your body? Yes/No
- 5. Do you spend most of your time thinking about yourself and your health, rather than other people or things? Yes/No
- 6. Do you feel that other people are not paying enough attention to your illnesses? Yes/No
- 7. Do you think the doctor is lying when he/she tells you there is nothing wrong with you? Yes/No
- 8. If you hear about a disease, are you afraid of getting it? Yes/No
- 9. Do you worry often that you may have a serious illness? Yes/No
- 10. Do you have many different types of symptoms? Yes/No
If you have answered yes to three or more of these questions (especially 5, 6 and 7), you could be a hypochondriac. Ask your family what they think, and consider making an appointment to see a therapist to deal with your anxiety levels.
– (Susan Erasmus, Health24, updated July 2012)