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Health Anxiety: A Cognitive-Behavioral Framework

Abstract

Health anxiety, while not a diagnosis, refers to a set of symptoms characterized by preoccupied worry with having or developing a serious medical illness. An individual presenting with interfering and distressing symptoms of health anxiety may receive a DSM-5 diagnosis of illness anxiety disorder (previously known as hypochondriasis) or somatic symptom disorder, based on the amount of physical complaints they have. Unfortunately, health anxiety is often initially misdiagnosed or undiagnosed due to an individual’s belief that their symptoms are solely physical. Health anxiety is costly to society due to lost work productivity and increased use of medical services. However, health anxiety can be successfully treated within a cognitive-behavioral framework. Intervention techniques include psychoeducation, exposure and response prevention, stress management, and mindfulness processes. Health anxiety symptoms have also shown improvement through pharmacological interventions. Chapter highlights include the definition of health anxiety, various treatment approaches and their efficacies, considerations in light of comorbid physical conditions, and case examples. Ultimately, we conclude that health anxiety, while challenging to diagnose and build trust for treatment in the beginning stages, can be treated effectively within a cognitive-behavioral framework through targeting dysfunctional beliefs about illness.

Keywords

  • Health Anxiety (HA)
  • Somatic Symptom Disorder
  • HA Symptoms
  • Hypochondriasis
  • HA Treatment

These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Correspondence to Thröstur Björgvinsson .

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Rutter, L., Nota, J.A., Yusufov, M., Björgvinsson, T. (2018). Health Anxiety: A Cognitive-Behavioral Framework. In: Charis, C., Panayiotou, G. (eds) Somatoform and Other Psychosomatic Disorders. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-89360-0_11

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