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Can Hypochondriacs Cause Their Own Heart Disease?

December 07, 2016
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Everyone has that one friend who tends to jump to the worst conclusions when it comes to their health. The most minute of symptoms and body aches can signify the onset of severe diseases—at least within their own minds. This is generally referred to as hypochondria, but recently it has taken on a new term in the world of psychiatry: health anxiety. Health anxiety, or hypochondriasis, can become a real health concern for those people who are already so conscious of their health. About two percent of the population is affected by health anxiety and, despite being so in tune with their bodies, are actually causing themselves more harm from all of their anxiety and distress. According to a new study coming out of Norway, recently published in the journal BMJ Open, those with health anxiety are 70 percent more likely to develop heart disease than those without. So does that mean that these people were right about their failing health all along? Not necessarily. Long term anxiety and stress can do real damage to your body. When we stress about things, the body releases a chemical called cortisol, which is a hormone that gives you energy, but in the long run, cortisol also erodes various parts of the body. These corrosive effects can increase atherosclerosis, a major risk factor that increases your chance of developing heart disease. However, for a lot of hypochondriacs or those with health anxiety, it’s difficult to avoid their stress. Unlike the objects of most common fears and anxieties: like spiders, heights, or flying, those with health anxiety have the object of their fear, their own health, as a constant presence. Another factor which may influence why those with health anxiety have a greater risk of heart disease, is their disinclination to seek advice on more serious health issues. Although in a constant state of worry about more trivial health concerns, they often avoid professional advice for more serious issues. If handled correctly, health anxiety has the potential to get better for some people. Whether it’s by explaining what health anxiety is or by offering psychological treatment. These can come in the form of webcam sessions with a therapist or various apps for your handheld devices which supply guided meditation.
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