Hypochondria is a very real condition for many people. It is a mental disorder experienced by both men and women where the sufferer believes that they are experiencing medical illness, whether real or imagined. They also believe that the symptoms they have are attributable to serious medical ailments. The condition can lead to severe anxiety and depression in the sufferer.
The symptoms usually follow a familiar pattern. The sufferer will develop an overpowering fear of a particular illness or illnesses. Often the fear is out of proportion with the illness or based on non-existent symptoms. The reasoned opinion of physicians and other medical experts often do not help in controlling the fear.
A main symptom is the misdiagnosis of any slight ailment. The fear the condition exerts is so great that any small ache or pain is treated as a major illness. The hypochondriac will think that the smallest pain can be attributed to major illness such as cancer or AIDS. In a sense, the person believes the worst and usually cannot be dissuaded by contrary expert opinion.
Recurrent visits to the doctor are another sign. The sufferer may also change doctors if the doctor suspects hypochondria. The person may begin to fear the doctor due to this diagnosis.
The person's worries can have severe ramifications in daily life. The person may spend a lot of time away from work worrying about his or her imagined ill health. Anxiety levels increase due to this incessant worry, and can create other illnesses such as panic attacks and depression.
Many physical symptoms of illness can be triggered by the condition. Psycho-somatic symptoms may also be found in the condition. Many hypochondriacs are seriously concerned with their own death due to the condition, and many begin to make preparations for their death.
Another symptom is an obsessive need for information on diseases and illnesses. The hypochondriac will usually not believe the diagnoses of doctors and will try to find his or her own diagnosis of the perceived illness. These people spend a great a deal of the day worrying about and discussing their symptoms.
Hypochondria affects at least 6% of people. Many people believe that bad posture is an explanation for the condition. The word hypochondria comes from Greek words meaning "below" and "the ribs". However, hypochondria is a psychological problem that only professional treatment can cure.