Hypochondriasis is an overwhelming fear of having a serious disease. It is also called illness anxiety disorder or health anxiety. You may have no symptoms of a disease or perhaps minimal symptoms, but you will be convinced that you are seriously ill. Even if you go to a doctor and no illnesses are found, you will not be reassured and continue to worry obsessively. You might actually have an illness but worry that it is much more serious than it really is. Hypochondriasis is not about the presence or absence of illness, but rather the psychological reaction to it.

The fear of having a disease is severe and persistent, and interferes with your work and relationships. Complaints often tend to focus on pain in the head, neck or trunk. Hypochondriasis is similar to obsessive compulsive disorder, because of the obsession with illness and the compulsion to do something to reduce anxiety.

Hypochondriasis may be caused by:

  • Major life stress

  • Any symptom believed to be life threatening such as chest pain or memory loss

  • History of childhood abuse or neglect

  • History of childhood illness

Signs and symptoms of hypochondriasis are as follows:

  • Excessive worrying about having a major disease

  • No (or mild) presence of symptoms

  • Having so much distress that it's hard for you to function

  • Repeatedly checking your body for signs of illness

  • Frequently making medical appointments for reassurance or alternately, avoiding medical care for fear of being diagnosed with a serious illness

  • Avoiding people, places or activities for fear of health risks

  • Constantly talking about your health and possible illnesses

  • Frequently searching the Internet for causes of symptoms of possible illnesses

  • Fear lasting for at least six months

  • Presence of other mental disorders such as depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder etc.​

If you or a loved one is constantly worried about having a serious illness, so much that it is debilitating your life and relationships, seek help from your doctor. You can obtain additional information and expert medical advice from doctors working with the Mind and Brain Service Line​ at The Aga Khan University Hospital.
Your time with your doctor may be limited, so make sure to prepare for your visit beforehand. Here​ are some tips to help get you started.
Your doctor will first conduct a physical exam to determine if you require treatment.

A thorough psychological evaluation will then be conducted including family history of diseases, basis of your fears, relationships, stress, history of drug/alcohol abuse (if any) and other relevant factors in your life.

You will also have to fill out a self-evaluation form. 

Your treatment will be aimed at improving your symptoms and enhancing your daily functioning. A very useful treatment in these situations is psychotherapy, particularly cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). This will help you to:

  • Identify your fears and beliefs

  • Change unhelpful thoughts

  • Create awareness about how your worries affect you and your behaviour

  • Change the way you respond to perceived symptoms

  • Learn skills to cope with anxiety and stress

  • Reduce or eliminate symptom checking behaviour

  • Improve relationships

  • Address other mental health disorders, such as depression​

Your doctor may also prescribe anti-depressants or anti-anxiety medications to help you manage your symptoms.​

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers various support services to help with managing or recovering from the disease or condition. These include but are not limited to nutrition, physiotherapy, rehabilitation, specialized clinics and some patient support groups. Your doctor or nurse will advise you accordingly.
The Aga Khan University Hospital offers financial assistance to those who are in need and fulfil the eligibility criteria. For further information, you can contact the Patient Welfare Department. You can find the contact number of the Patient Welfare Department in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.
The financial counselling staff is available during office hours, at the main PBSD (Patient Business Services Department), to answer your financial queries on treatments’ costs and authorize admissions on partial deposit as per hospital policies allow. The financial counsellor in the emergency room is open 24/7. You can find the contact number of the Patient Business Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage. 
Your doctor and or nurse will give you specific instructions about the prescribed medication. Please ensure that you take or use the prescribed medicine as advised. It can be dangerous to your health if you self-prescribe. Please inform the doctor or nurse beforehand if you have experienced any adverse reactions to any medications in the past. If you experience any symptoms of drug poisoning, overdose or severe reaction please contact the Pharmacy Service at The Aga Khan University Hospital immediately. You can find the contact number of the Pharmacy Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.

The information provided on our website is for educational purposes and not intended to be a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or other healthcare professional provider.