Thanks to the of Internet and a huge increase in websites like WebMD, Mayoclinic.com, and MedicineNet.com, the rate of patients with signs of hypochondriasis is also on the rise, doctors say.
Hypochondriasis is a type of mental illness in which a person displays symptoms of a disease, but do not actually have the disease. A serious anxiety and/or fear of having a disease, in fact, causes a person to display symptoms when he or she does not actually have any condition at all.
Doctors are finding an increasing amount of hypochondriacs visiting their offices, mostly due to the rise of self-diagnosing medical websites. While these websites are a wonderful tool to help patients assess their symptoms and their need to visit a doctor, some are taking it to the extreme.
Simply type in the symptom “headache” into a medical website’s search box and you will find that headaches are a symptom of hundreds of diseases. This is where the potential hypochondriac is baited into obsessive researching different diseases and conditions and suddenly he or she is in his or her doctors office complaining they have Lupus.
“Our offices are becoming more and more flooded with patients who come in convinced they are have some rare condition because they can’t sleep at night. They spend so much time researching the Internet that get really worked up that something is seriously wrong with them,” said Doctor Michelle Tournalis from Michegan.
“Instead of calling to make an appointment, they scour the Internet and try to be the doctor and diagnose themselves instead of seeking proper medical care. By the time they get in to see a doctor, they have become convinced they have such-and-such and want every medical test under the sun,” continued Doctor Tournalis.
It should be noted that hypochondriacs do experience symptoms and are not lying about or faking their perceived illness. Hypochondriacs truly believe they are sick.
Here are some warning signs and symptoms of hypochondriasis:
*A person visits many doctors trying to find a doctor that will agree with their perceived notion they are seriously ill.
*The patient may have experienced a recent stressful event.
*The person won’t accept a doctor or doctors’ diagnosis and believe the doctor is wrong.
*The person’s obsessive concern about having an illness hinders his or her daily life.
Diagnosing a person with hypochondriasis is very difficult. Patients with the disorder are often thoroughly convinced that their symptoms are caused by a serious medical illness.
Typically when symptoms appear, a doctor starts his or her evaluation with a full medical history and a physical examination. If and when the doctor finds no legitimate medical reason for the person’s symptoms, he or she may provide a referral to see a psychologist, psychiatrist, and/or health care professional that are specifically trained to diagnose and treat hypochondriasis. That doctor then makes a diagnosis based on his or her assessment of the patient’s behavior, attitude, and/or perception and also the fact that any physical illness has been ruled out as the cause of the person’s symptoms. The doctor may then administer some sort of personality assessment to confirm the diagnosis of hypochondriasis.