Essay on Hypochondriasis as A Mental Disorder

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Hypochondriasis as A Mental Disorder

Headache = Tumor. Cough = Tuberculosis. Mole = Skin Cancer. Such is the thought process of a hypochodriac. As defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual-IV (DSM-IV), hypochondriasis is an unrealistic interpretation of one's bodily sensations as abnormal, leading to the fear and belief that one has a serious disease (1). This preoccupation with having a serious medical condition is one of the somatoform disorders and may be considered more as a symptom than a disease. In fact, hypochondriacal symptoms often appear as a part of other mental disorders, including forms of depression or schizophrenia (2). For this reason, a close investigation of hypochondriacal behavior is necessary to
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With numbers such as these, the issue of understanding more about these symptoms has become important within the medical world. These pursuits have resulted in four etiologic theories regarding hypochondriasis, a combination of which could hold the answers to this disorder.

The first of these theories relates to the amplification of normal bodily sensations, or when individuals "...attribute pathologic meanings to normal somatic sensations and functions." An example of this would be to attribute swollen lymph nodes to a malignant disease, as opposed to a simple viral infection. The consequences mostly affect the individual's psychological and behavioral well-being, which leads to the focus of the second theory. Based on Freud's psychodynamic hypotheses, there is a belief that "unconscious conflicts are the result of traumatic or frustrating childhood experiences being reawakened in adult life by similar stress or frustration." Consequently, particularly high-stress/tension situations could arouse subconscious feelings of guilt, anxiety, and fear for a person, and their inability to express these emotions verbally may lead to physical manifestations of conflict.

The remaining two theories take a more behavioral-oriented approach. The third
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