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What are the Causes of Hypochondria

Daniel Sher, MA, Clin Psychology
What are the Causes of Hypochondria

Hypochondria is a disorder marked by the persistent and misguided belief that you have serious health problems when no such problems are present. At times, the physical symptoms that are present are caused by your own mind - this is characteristic of a different but related disorder, called somatization. In either case, hypochondria is a complex disorder – one that has many causes – and we explore those causes in this article.

Note: the official name for this condition has changed from hypochondria to ‘Illness Anxiety Disorder’. Furthermore, this disorder is no longer technically classified as an anxiety disorder. Nonetheless, there is a fair amount of overlap between this condition and the symptoms of anxiety. Read on to learn more. 

Causes of Hypochondria

Hypochondria can be serious for a lot of people. But what causes it isn't entirely known.

If someone with this condition also experiences frequent panic attacks, they might qualify for a diagnosis of panic disorder. At times, a person may receive both diagnoses - these disorders are closely interlinked (see the 2005 paper referenced below for more information). This condition is caused by an oversensitivity to the way a person feels, combined with serious panic attacks that mimic terrible diseases – all leading to the person feeling as though something must be wrong with their health. Even generalized anxiety disorder can cause these types of issues. Do panic attacks cause hypochondria? We don’t know this for sure, but the two phenomena are definitely closely interlinked. 

Other potential causes for hypochondria are listed below.

Learning the specifics of the cause behind a person’s hypochondria is the first step towards addressing their core beliefs about why illness “needs” to be a part of their life and cultivating healthier beliefs to replace them, so that eventually they can be healthy, happy, and even happy to be healthy.

Article Resources
  1. Hiller, Wolfgang, et al. Differentiating hypochondriasis from panic disorder. Journal of anxiety disorders 19.1 (2005): 29-49.
  2. Marshall, Tamsin, et al. Intergenerational transmission of health beliefs in somatoform disorders: exploratory study. The British Journal of Psychiatry 191.5 (2007): 449-450.
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