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Hypochondriacs to valetudinarians

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Hypochrondiacs can often be identified by experienced pharmacist. One study has shown that about 3 per cent of visitors to primary care settings are suffering from hypochondriasis.

Hypochondria is characterised by fears that symptoms indicate a serious illness, constant self-examination and self-diagnosis and a preoccupation with one’s body. Many sufferers may disbelieve doctors’ diagnoses and suffer from the raised blood pressure and anxiety of “white coat syndrome”.

The term hypochondriasis for a disease without real genuine cause reflects the ancient belief that the viscera of the hypochondrium (the upper part of the abdomen behind the lowest ribs) were the seat of melancholy and the source of the vapour that caused these morbid feelings.

Hypochondriasis is often linked to other psychological disorders, such as depression, obsessive compulsive disorder and phobias. Cognitive behavioural therapy and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors have been shown to be effective treatments.

A variation of hypochondria, where the patient’s concerns are escalated after reviewing search results and literature online, has been labelled “cyberchondria”. The term appears to have arisen about 12 years ago, when it was used by the BBC and The Independent newspaper.

In the first systematic study of cyberchondria, reported five years ago, researchers analysed internet search results and found higher than expected linkage rates between common symptoms such as headache and serious diseases like brain tumours. They found that internet-based escalation of concerns occurs frequently in around 20 per cent of people. Although 40 per cent reported that internet interactions increased health anxiety, about half said that it reduced anxiety.

A third category of health obsessed patient might be easier to manage. Valetudinarians are unduly anxious about their health but takes excessive care to make sure that they do not become ill. The word is from the Latin valetudinarius, meaning “in ill health”.

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From: Beyond pharmacy blog

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