“I already had five blood tests.” Trial of people with hypochondria

Professionals prefer to talk about “anxiety disorder” and describe it as excessive anxiety about a health problem; During the pandemic increased consultation with these patients, who often feel misunderstood; In extreme cases, their quality of life and social connections are affected

“I have a constant fear of death.” This is one of the messages Josephine A.The 24-year-old student, often posts in a Facebook support group chat Called “Hypochondria”. Causes can range from 38 ° F to the appearance of eye damage. Doctors’ answers can not calm him down and the rest of the group, of course not.

Leila VinaTeam Manager Cognitive behavioral psychologists (Psychoc), indicates that the term hypochondria is not currently used in the field of mental health, although it appears in a previous version of the Mental Health Diagnostic Manual (DSM 4). The concept is Anxiety disorder of illness And describes excessive concerns about the possibility of a health problem. “It is characteristic Hypervigulation of symptoms that confirms the disease and interferes with the patient’s quality of life. Explain.

There are very few studies on this disorder because it is difficult to draw statistical data. From Psicoc, they point out that this condition affects 1 to 5% of the population on the American continent and that its chronicity can last up to 50% of patients if not treated properly. According to American Psychiatric Association (APA), anxiety cases during a pandemic multiplied by four.

Experts agree that Distribution of Covid-19 More fear and symptoms. “The virus has brought uncertainty and ignorance, as a result of which these patients are starting to receive information from a catastrophic angle. Anxiety will cover them And strengthens them. “The pandemic has increased the propensity and intensity for them to read reality in this way.” Daniela ToletinPsicoc Coordinator.

Josephine was going through quiet days, but the positive result of Covid-19 forced her to come back. “I had some symptoms and could not sleep. This caused tachycardia and arrhythmia … my heart felt strange and a ringing in my ears. I felt like I had high blood pressure In case of death I was afraid of sleepingHe told LA NACION.

“It ‘s horrible and very emotionally exhausting. I think I’m sick all day. I’m researching cancer symptoms, rashes or pain on the internet and linking it to the most horrible.”

Francesca I.

Google is the most terrible enemy. “I was vaccinated AstraZeneca And I regret finding information on the internet. “I read that there were people who died of thrombosis, stroke or heart disease,” she said. He adds: “Hypochondria is an irrational condition. “The nervous system changes when it feels threatened and the sense of reality disappears,” said the student.

“Stressful situations or going through difficult periods, whether personal, work or economic, affect this situation, which The pandemic has worsened. There are patients who refuse to go to an open-air meeting of four people, even during low infection, and all attendees are vaccinated with three doses. “These are excessive reactions, behaviors and ideas,” Toletin explained.

Fear of disease often leads to avoiding medical advice or, conversely, overdoing it.
Fear of disease often leads to avoiding medical advice or, conversely, overdoing it.

Diagnostic hypotheses

To solve the problem, psychoanalyst Juan Eduardo Tesone introduces a fundamental difference: The organism and the body are not the same. “The organism is what a person is born with The body is a construction, “And the perception we have of how the body works is not necessarily how it works, it’s the way each subject imagines it,” he said.

“I think I have leukemia. I have all the symptoms. Already I did five blood tests And they came out well, but something must be wrong because I have small red spots on the skin. I checked on Google and there are symptoms compatible with leukemia. I do not know what to think anymore. ” Francesca I.30 years old, in the same group on the social network.

“It’s terrible and it’s very emotionally exhausting. All day I think I have a disease. I research the symptoms of cancer, the causes of rashes or pain on the internet and link it to the most horrible. Moreover, As soon as I feel discomfort, I start with tachycardia and think if the tests are done well. Because of this insecurity, I even suspect the doctors and start self-diagnosis. “ Recognizes the nation.

“We work in psychology Excessive symptomatology, Which is subjective. But do not confuse health anxiety disorder with episodes of anxiety or distress. This condition is characterized by the chronicity of this interpretation over time that people make about their symptoms and discomfort. The focus is always negative and generalized. ” Vigna raises.

In addition, this fear of illness and death often leads to avoiding medical advice or, conversely, going too far. “For the slightest thing, I feel that I have to go to the hospital and see a doctor. I have to constantly prove that everything is going well. “When I survived the coronavirus and it was without serious symptoms, I still believed I would die from the virus,” said Josephine.

“Most people with this disorder have persistent intrusive thoughts, and searching the Internet for information increases their anxiety. More on that Make diagnostic hypotheses Because they need answers to their doubts. “Fear of being infected with Covid-19 has been one of the main reasons for the consultation for the last two years,” said psychologist Andres Davidson.

He adds: “The context did not work: a lot of uncertainty, a lot of information that is not always correct, new options, scenarios and change of prevention measures … The lack of a context that ensures security is a factor that exacerbates anxiety. “

The general uncertainty caused by the pandemic has particularly affected patients with anxiety disorder
The general uncertainty caused by the pandemic has particularly affected patients with anxiety disorder

Social stigma

Josephine can not find understanding among family members and this intensifies her discomfort. “They treat me like I’m crazy. I just need a little compassion. “It goes very badly. I spent three days crying because I had blood in my urine and I thought I might have a tumor,” he recalled.

Specialists argue that fear is constant and when an objective symptom arises, patients seem to confirm the most tragic thoughts. The confusion of those around him is also repeated.

“They can not be calm and constantly feel fear. It affects their social connections. Anxiety disorder carries a high social stigma. You have to understand that there is no dualism between body and mind And that These patients are not seeking attention “ Who argues.

Doctor’s gaze

In some cases, misunderstandings arise on the part of professionals as well. “Doctors need to be prepared for these cases and show compassion for the patient who is very anxious at the time,” said Josephine.

“The doctor should not release these patients. They should offer therapy to reduce stress, but always after any physical illness has been ruled out.”

Leila Vina

Davidson offers a different perspective: “Sometimes these people are treated that way Excessive or dramatic. Fortunately, more and more physicians are considering mental health as a factor to consider even after diagnosis Exclusion of organic etiology, Appeal to psychology. Many patients resort to the therapy prescribed by primary care physicians. ”

And concludes: “The doctor should not release these patients. I suggest that they do therapy to reduce stress, but always after they rule out any physical illness. ”

Tessone adds that there is Syndrome More complicated, which does not describe the common “hypochondria”, the so-called Munchausen And that it is diagnosed when a patient comes to invent symptoms, e.g. Insert dye into your urine to reassure your doctor that you are ill. “In these cases, it is about some masochism, because they are treated and more “They can force them to act.” Tells.

When physicians rule out an organic etiology and the patient's anxiety does not diminish, they may indicate psychological counseling.
When physicians rule out an organic etiology and the patient’s anxiety does not diminish, they may indicate psychological counseling.

Therapies

“Treatment Cognitive behavioral It is based on evidence. “Patients are advised to seek medical advice and, if physically excluded, to help them cognitively rediscover interpretations and provide behavioral strategies,” Toletin explains.

Much of the work indicates Change of interpretations And put up with the fear of the unknown. We strive for the patient to prove other vital tasks in a healthy and positive way. No one is in control of what happens. You ask the patient to put himself in the worst case scenario and ask him, “What would you do then?” It reduces uncertainty and works with the scenario they can handle, ”Vigna added.

The specialist warns that one should not think that because the patient suffers from a sick anxiety disorder, he does not have any physical illness. “Both circumstances can coexist. A professional should be vigilant if the patient goes to many specialists and nothing appears for that “Offer him mental health counseling and interdisciplinary work,” he explains.

Tessone argues that there are difficulties in these patients Express their emotions in words And that, for this reason, the body – or its representation – manifests itself. In this regard, he believes that the reference to psychoanalytic therapy continues because it aims to convey in words what a person needs. “There is always an unconscious basis that we are going to look for,” he concludes.

Source: La Nacion

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