Proverbially speaking, “A man convinced against his will, is of the same opinion still”. Such is the case in the typical hypochondria realm, if there is such a thing as typical with hypochondria. If anything, hypochondriacs are atypical in science and medicine. The modern world has come to accept that hypochondriacs are sick, but not with the ailments usually described in a physician’s third or fourth visit with a single patient in less than 10 days. Are they sick? Are they experiencing symptoms that can be backed up with tests and diagnostic equipment? Answers to these questions are controversial at best.
Despite the best efforts of concerned healthcare providers, family and friends, hypochondriacs will not be convinced easily that their concerns are nothing more than ‘a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato’. The medical world up until recently decades viewed people experiencing hypochondria as prognostically well in regards to their complaints; but now views their complaint “as a samatoform complaint that has physical effects unattributable to any other known psychological or physical cause” (Bound, 2006). In layman terms, hypochondrias, not officially a disease is attributed to being a mental affliction. In either case, the debilitating effects of hypochondrias are real to those who live it.
A recently diagnosed hypochondriac Jeff Pearlman (2010) explains that for more than ten years he has known that he was going to die. He was absolutely sure of it. Whether by some type of cancer or minor cut to acute pains; he was dying. Jeff details his typical cycle with this disease,
‘It’s probably nothing’ said one doctor.
‘You likely pulled a muscle’ said another.
‘I’d ignore it,’ advised a third.
They are wrong. I know they are wrong. So, with nowhere else to turn, I seek out reassurance. “What do you think my stomach pain is?” I ask. “Do you think I’m OK?”
“You’re fine”, my father says.
…You’ve never even broken a bone,” my wife says. “You’re fine”
I don’t believe them. I can’t believe them. I wish I could believe them.
This is what it means to be a hypochondriac-what it is to live a life too often based upon the raw, carnal fear of inevitable, forthcoming, around-the-bed death. (Pearlman, 2010).
Jeff’s story is not unique in the life of a hypochondriac. According to his research one in 25 patients will experience to some degree this understudied and misunderstood disease (Pearlman, 2010).
Types of Hypochondrias
In the article, The Struggle to Understand Hypochondria (2010) there are three main types of hypochondria. They are: the obsessional-anxious type; the depressive hypochondriac, and the somatoform type. Obsessional-anxious hypochondrias is the type we most often associated to hypochondria. This person is constantly worrying, needs strong doses of positive affirmations that they are okay physically in order for them to experience some cognitive...