DefinitionBy Mayo Clinic Staff
Illness anxiety disorder, sometimes called hypochondria or health anxiety, is worrying excessively that you are or may become seriously ill. You may have no physical symptoms. Or you may believe that normal body sensations or minor symptoms are signs of severe illness, even though a thorough medical exam doesn't reveal a serious medical condition.
If you have a medical condition or you're at high risk of developing one, you become consumed with worry. You may experience excessive anxiety that a body sensation associated with a known illness signals a much greater threat than actually exists. This excessive anxiety — rather than the physical symptom itself — results in severe distress that can be disabling.
Illness anxiety disorder is a long-term condition that can fluctuate in severity. It may increase with age or during times of stress. But psychological counseling (psychotherapy) and sometimes medication can help ease your worries.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, published by the American Psychiatric Association, no longer includes hypochondriasis — also called hypochondria — as a diagnosis. Instead, people previously diagnosed with hypochondriasis may be classified as having one of these disorders:
July 02, 2015
- Illness anxiety disorder, especially if there are no physical symptoms or they're mild
- Somatic symptom disorder, especially if there are multiple or major physical symptoms
- Illness anxiety disorder. In: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM-5. 5th ed. Arlington, Va.: American Psychiatric Association; 2013. http://www.psychiatryonline.org. Accessed May 14, 2015.
- Levenson JL. Hypochondriasis: Epidemiology, clinical presentation, assessment, and diagnosis. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed May 14, 2015.
- Levenson JL. Hypochondriasis: Treatment and prognosis. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed May 14, 2015.
- Illness anxiety disorder. Merck Manual Professional Version. http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/psychiatric-disorders/somatic-symptom-and-related-disorders/illness-anxiety-disorder. Accessed May 16, 2015.
- Singh K, et al. From headache to tumour: An examination of health anxiety, health-related Internet use and 'query escalation.' Journal of Health Psychology. In press. Accessed May 16, 2015.
- Isaac ML, et al. Medically unexplained symptoms. Medical Clinics of North America. 2014;98:663.
- Starcevic V. Hypochondriasis and health anxiety: Conceptual challenges. British Journal of Psychiatry. 2013;202:7.
- Health anxiety (hypochondria). NHS Choices. http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/hypochondria/Pages/Introduction.aspx. Accessed May 16, 2015.
- Stonnington CM (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Scottsdale, Ariz. June 13, 2015.
- Craner JR (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. June 12, 2015.
- Sawchuk CN (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. June 12, 2015.