Sunday, January 15, 2006

hypochondriasis

Hypochondriasis is a mental disorder characterized by constant preoccupation with health and one's own body. The essence of hypochondriasis is a clinical picture in which the predominant disturbance is an unrealistic interpretation of physical signs or sensations as abnormal. This leads to a preoccupation with the belief of having a serious illness. This disorder is not uncommon among the elderly, since physical changes and physical disabilities are frequently taking place.
Symptoms may include excessive worry about bowel movements, body temperature, aches, pains, coughs, sneezes, and cancer. A variety of physical conditions of disease, may simulate symptoms and it is often difficult to determine whether a person's complaints of pain or discomfort are physical, psychological, or both.
There is a high suicide risk for patients with persistent physical complaints whether hypochondriacal or due to an actual disease. Therefore, attempts should be made to resolve all such complaints. A medical checkup should be the first step to evaluate symptoms. If it is determined that the symptom is psychological, psychotherapy may be necessary. It is important to avoid complex diagnostic workups and the use of potentially addictive drugs. It is also important for those dealing with the hypochondriac to maintain a good relationship in order to lessen the distress of the individual.
Reichel. W. M. Clinical Aspects of Aging. Baltimore: The Williams & Wilkins Co., 1979.

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