A hypochondriac has persistent beliefs that they are ill. Having hypochondria, or health anxiety, makes you worry constantly that your symptoms could be a sign of some serious medical illness, and you are constantly checking your symptoms and scouring the internet for any information on your possible condition. You may even doctor-shop and have multiple doctor visits, and despite normal examinations and lab results, you desperately seek more exams and tests to make sure you don’t have anything serious.
Of course this constant checking for an illness just gets worse the more you engage in the checking and monitoring of your symptoms, and the more you visit with the doctor and have test after test done. The doctor’s advice that you don’t have anything serious and the negative lab results don’t satisfy you, and you still believe you have something seriously wrong with you.
So how can you stop being a hypochondriac? The first step is to understand how you came to be so worried about being ill. See the following negative cycle of health anxiety:
So in this example, you have a trigger, which is stomach pain. This stomach pain leads to thoughts about the stomach pain- you think the pain may be due to stomach cancer, and you think you may die from this, and you can’t stand the uncertainty of not knowing. So your thoughts about the stomach pain then induce anxiety feelings, where you are anxious, tense, and can’t relax. This anxiety in turn makes you overcompensate, so you start to over-check and over-monitor yourself for symptoms; you make multiple visits to the doctor to check out what your illness is; you get multiple lab tests to see what you have; and you over-educate yourself about your “undiagnosed” illness by reading and scouring the internet for clues about your illness. The problem with these behaviors is that it maintains your intolerance of uncertainty, so the next time you have symptoms, you continue to think it might be from some serious illness, and you start the negative cycle over again.
The way to stop being a hypochondriac is to stop thinking and behaving like one. Replacing your thoughts with less negative thoughts will make you less anxious, and in turn will make you less likely to engage in overcompensating behaviors, and thus break the negative cycle.