Hypochondriacs are up to four times more likely to commit suicide.
It seems that, sometimes, you can indeed be ‘worried sick’. A large Swedish psychological study has discovered that people diagnosed with an excessive fear of serious illness actually tend to die earlier than people who aren’t hyper-vigilant about their health.
Hypochondria, now called illness anxiety disorder, is a rare mental condition, plagued with symptoms that go well beyond average health worries.
People afflicted with this disorder are unable to dispel their fears even if they show normal physical exams and lab tests. Some people change doctors non-stop looking for ‘the problem’.
Associated Press reported:
“’Many of us are mild hypochondriacs. But there are also people on the other extreme of the spectrum who live in a perpetual state of worry and suffering and rumination about having a serious illness’, said Dr. Jonathan E. Alpert of Montefiore Medical Center in New York.
People with the disorder are suffering and ‘it’s important to take it seriously and to treat it’, said Alpert, who was not involved in the new study. Treatment can involve cognitive behavioral therapy, relaxation techniques, education, and sometimes antidepressant medication.”
People with this diagnosis have an increased risk of death from both natural and unnatural causes, particularly suicide, the Swedish researchers found.
Older research used to suggest the risk of suicide might be lower for people with the condition. But in the study, the risk of suicide death was four times higher for the people with the diagnosis.
“They looked at 4,100 people diagnosed with hypochondriasis and matched them with 41,000 people similar in age, sex, and county of residence. They used a measurement called person-years, which accounts for the number of people and how long they were tracked.
Overall death rates were higher in the people with hypochondriasis, 8.5 versus 5.5 per 1,000 person-years. People with the condition died younger than the others, a mean age of 70 versus 75. Their risk of death from circulatory and respiratory diseases was higher. Cancer was an exception; the risk of death was about the same.”
Hypochondriac patients can be easily offended, as they feel accused of ‘imagining symptoms’.
“’It takes a great deal of respect and sensitivity conveyed to patients that this itself is a kind of condition, that it has a name’, Alpert said. ‘And, fortunately, there are good treatments’.”
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