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--Maya Angelou

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The main characteristic of Hypochondriasis is chronic fears of having a serious illness based on a misinterpretation of bodily signs or symptoms.

The diagnostic criteria for Hypochondriasis includes the following:

  • Preoccupation with fears of having, or the idea that one has, a serious disease based on the person's misinterpretation of bodily symptoms.

  • The preoccupation persists despite appropriate medical evaluation and reassurance.

  • The belief in the first category is not of delusional intensity (as in Delusional Disorder, Somatic Type) and is not restricted to a circumscribed concern about appearance (as in Body Dysmorphic Disorder).

  • The preoccupation causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.

  • The duration of the disturbance is at least 6 months.

  • The preoccupation is not better accounted for by Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Panic Disorder, a Major Depressive Episode, Separation Anxiety, or another Somatoform Disorder.

The preoccupation in Hypochondriasis may be with bodily functions (e.g., heartbeat, sweating, or peristalsis); with minor physical abnormalities (e.g., a small sore or an occasional cough); or with vague and ambiguous physical sensations (e.g., "tired heart,""aching veins").

Alternatively, there may be preoccupation with a specific organ or a single disease (e.g., fear of having cardiac disease). Repeated physical examinations, diagnostic tests, and reassurance from the physician do little to allay the concern about bodily disease or affliction. For example, an individual preoccupied with having cardiac disease will not be reassured by the repeated lack of findings on physical examination, ECG, or even cardiac angiography. Individuals with Hypochondriasis may become alarmed by reading or hearing about disease, knowing someone who becomes sick, or from observations, sensations, or occurrences within their own bodies.

    Diagnostic criteria summarized from:

    American Psychiatric Association. (1994). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, fourth edition. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.


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