Is there a cure for hypochondria?
No longer termed ‘hypochondria’, conditions involving anxiety around health and illness can be treated through psychotherapeutic techniques.
Asked by: Sophie Parks, London
Psychiatry ditched the term ‘hypochondria’ a few years ago as it was considered too pejorative, and replaced it with two related diagnoses: ‘somatic symptom disorder’ (distress due to bodily symptoms that can’t be attributed to a medical condition) and ‘illness anxiety disorder’ (extreme anxiety about the possibility of having a serious illness, or developing one). There is no ‘cure’ for either condition, but both are considered treatable, mainly through psychotherapeutic techniques such as CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy), which aim to help the patient to relax and not to catastrophise when interpreting bodily sensations.
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Dr Christian Jarrett is a cognitive neuroscientist, science writer and author. He is the Deputy Editor of Psyche, the sister magazine to Aeon that illuminates the human condition through psychology, philosophy and the arts. Jarrett also created the British Psychological Society's Research Digest blog and was the first ever staff journalist on the Society's magazine, The Psychologist. He is author of Great Myths of The Brain and Be Who You Want: Unlocking the Science of Personality Change.