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Forum Name: Psychiatric Topics

Question: Hypochondria arising from original symptoms?


 Tristonstone - Wed Aug 11, 2010 1:31 am

I have always had an irrational fear of death, which I have yet to speak about with a doctor. I usually trust the doctors and their diagnosis, and try not to let my fear slow me down or keep me locked away in my house.
But a few months ago I was awoken at night with such a horrible sensation I rushed to the emergency room only to be treated like there was nothing wrong.
These symptoms included numbness of my entire torso and thighs, as well as faintness and dizziness, and I was 3 weeks late for my period. In my head? Not at the time! It happened again the next month.
These symptoms died down but now they are in my chest. (Pain and numbness in left chest and arm, as well as face)
I've rushed to the emergency room a few times only to be told my heart was fine...good xray, good ct scan, good EKG, just a cyst in my left ovary.
I have changed doctors because I felt my other doctor didn't communicate well enough with me. (I felt like he diagnosed the symptoms and not the cause, prescribing me a medicine I clearly stated I did react well to!)
I experience sleeplesness from fear of waking up in pain, and constant symptoms, as well as depression and occassional self loathing. (nothing that would lead to self harm) I am so puzzled by my symptoms that I am always researching them and possible causes...coming up with a new theory every time only to discard it as too irrational or too serious.
Is this perhaps developing into something that may be phsychological? Am I a hypochondriac?
 Faye Lang, RN, MSW - Wed Aug 11, 2010 9:49 pm

Hi Tristanstone,

First, I'll review hypochondria, which actually is a mental disorder. It includes an excessive fear or anxiety about having a particular disease or medical condition. The person worries that minor symptoms mean there is a serious illness. The person seeks repeated medical examinations or consultations, and becomes frustrated with doctors or medical care and begins to switch doctors frequently, or "Doctor shop." The person has strained social relationships, is obsessive about doing health research, and has considerable emotional distress. The person frequently checks their body for lumps, sore, or other problems, as well as checking their pulse, blood pressure or respiratory status. There is an inability to be reassured by negative medical examinations, and the person often thinks they have a disease after hearing or reading about it. The person avoids situations that provoke anxiety, such as being in a hospital. The condition has varying degrees of intensity. The hallmark is frequent medical visits. If someone suggests a psychological evaluation, it makes no sense to the person due to their conviction that it's a medical condition.

You may recognize a few of the above symptoms and think that you're experiencing hypochondria, but I doubt that is really the case. Consider the symptoms of a Panic Attack: the person may experience an intense fear of sudden onset, have a sense of dying, feels faint,or have nausea. There will likely be a numb sensation throughout the body, tingling in the extremities, hyperventilation, and/or burning sensations (especially in the neck and face). There may be tunnel vision, chest pain or tightness, trembling, heart palpitations, hot and/or cold flashes, sweating, light-headedness, blank mind, a sense of slowed time, or a feeling of needing to escape. There may be sensations of choking, smothering or of pressure on the chest, or difficulty breathing. The symptoms are often in response to a phobia, such as of death, and do not usually indicate a mental disorder.

I encourage you to see a psychiatrist or psychologist for evaluation of panic attacks, and to rule out hypochondria for your own peace of mind. Treatment generally consists of anti-anxiety medication and/or antidepressants, and cognitive-behavioral therapy. Exploring the source of your fear of death will likely be one of the approaches. Identifying the source often significantly reduces the symptoms of an anxiety reaction and/or panic attack.

I hope this information is helpful to you. Good luck!

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