People with a diagnosis of health anxiety (also called ‘hypochondriasis’) believe they may have a serious physical illness which their doctor has not been able to identify or diagnose.
Individuals with health anxiety often fear that they will die from this illness, and as a consequence they engage in behaviours to detect and gain treatment for the supposed illness. Such behaviours include the scanning of their body for symptoms of ill health, researching symptoms (via books, the internet, or by asking others about symptoms), reducing their level of activity to prevent a negative impact on their health, or seeking reassurance or investigations from health professionals or family and friends.
For individuals suffering from health anxiety, these fears often become their main focus, and they find that this impacts on their daily life or takes up a large amount of their time. As many clients with health anxiety believe that they have a serious physical health problem that has been missed, it is rare for these individuals to seek treatment directly for their health anxiety.