Hypochondriasis refers to an excessive preoccupation of the person with falling ill or having a serious disease.
In medical practice hypochondriasis is seen at a rate of 4-6%. The occurrence rate is equal for men and women.
Physical symptoms are often misinterpreted. There are some that regard the condition as a kind of depression. According to dynamic thought; aggressive or hostile impulses towards other people are transferred by means of suppression and displacement, and establish themselves as physical complaints.
A diagnosis requires the symptoms to be present for at least 6 months. If symptoms last less than 6 months it is diagnosed as a somatoform disorder which cannot be named. It should not be at a level where the patient has hallucinations. Its onset may be following the illness or death in a person important in the patient’s life.
It has to be distinguished from AIDS, endocrinopathy, myasthenia gravis, MS, degenerative diseases of the central nervous system, SLE, or larvated neoplastic disease.
It is episodic and chronic. In 1/3 of sufferers achieve a good recovery. Indicators of a good prognosis are high socio-economic level, presence of an anxiety or depression that responds to treatment, sudden onset of the condition, absence of a personality disorder, and absence of any other medical illness.
In general the condition is resistant to treatment. Sufferers benefit from group physiotherapy.