DESCRIPTIONHypochondriasis is a person's conviction that he or she has a serious or fatal disease, despite evidence to the contrary from medical examinations and tests. The brain and other parts of the central nervous system are involved.
Appropriate health care includes:
Physician's monitoring of general condition and medications.
Psychotherapy or counseling. This offers the best hope for cure. However, few children (or adults) with hypochondriasis accept the conclusion that their health problem is psychological.
SIGNS & SYMPTOMS
Anxiety and persistent reports of symptoms involving any body part. Concern about heart disease or cancer is common. Symptoms may change, but the child's belief that a serious condition exists does not. Frequently reported symptoms include insomnia, sexual dysfunction, and gastrointestinal discomfort, such as bloating, belching, and cramps.
CAUSESOverly protective parents in early childhood.
Lack of social outlets and contacts.
Guilt feelings and an imagined need for punishment.
Extreme need for attention.
Major life changes, such as the parents' divorce, a school or job change, a parent's remarriage, a move, or the loss of a valued person or object.
PREVENTING COMPLICATIONS OR RECURRENCEDon't reward illness by giving your child special privileges and undue attention for being sick. Provide adequate love and support during healthy periods.
Your own observation of symptoms.
Medical history and physical exam by a doctor. After a thorough medical evaluation, repeat testing should be avoided.
Wasting money on unnecessary--and sometimes dangerous--medical care.
Insisting on unnecessary surgical procedures or medications.
Failure of a doctor to take symptoms of real disease seriously when they do develop.
Generally resistant to treatment. Most children with hypochondriasis maintain a lifelong belief that they have a serious disease, and as adults they change doctors frequently.
HOME CAREChildren with hypochondriasis are often difficult to live with because of their constant worry and demands for attention. Realize that the child really suffers, and try to be supportive. Reward positive behavior that is not related to physical complaints. Don't encourage the "sick role."
MEDICATIONMedicine usually is not necessary for this disorder. Your doctor may prescribe mild tranquilizers for a short time while therapy is being arranged.
See Medications section for information regarding medicines your doctor may prescribe.
DIET & FLUIDS
No special diet.
OK TO GO TO SCHOOL?Yes.
CALL YOUR DOCTOR IF
Your child has symptoms of hypochondriasis and you or your child want professional help to overcome the problem.
New, unexplained symptoms develop. Tranquilizers used in treatment may produce side effects or dependence.