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Illness Anxiety Disorder

  • Amy Scholten, MPH
Publication Type:


Illness Anxiety Disorder

(Hypochondria; Hypochondriasis)


Illness anxiety disorder is an ongoing fear of having a serious illness. The fear lasts, even when there is no illness. If not treated, the fear can affect daily life.


The cause of illness anxiety disorder is not known.

Risk Factors

Things that may raise the risk of illness anxiety disorder are:

  • Family members with illness anxiety disorder
  • Serious illness in the family or during childhood
  • Mental health problems such as depression , anxiety, or personality disorder
  • Childhood abuse
  • Seeing violence in childhood
  • A stressful experience with illness
Brain—Psychological Organ.

Chemical imbalances and traumatic life experiences may contribute to the development of illness anxiety disorder.

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Symptoms of anxiety illness disorder are health worries that last at least 6 months. They are very upsetting and may affect social life and work.

Symptoms include:

  • Fear of serious illness
  • Thinking minor symptoms are from serious illness
  • Many physical complaints that often change

They lead to:

  • Checking oneself often
  • Repeat doctor visits and tests
  • Reading about health often
  • Changing doctors often
  • Trying many herbal or natural products


The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. A physical exam will be done. If the exam shows no disease, the doctor may order other tests. If no illness is found, the doctor may suspect illness anxiety disorder. Diagnosis is based on fear of illness that lasts:

  • At least 6 months
  • Despite negative tests
  • And is not due to other mental health problems


Illness anxiety disorder is treated with supportive care. A doctor and counselor may work with the person. The goal is to reduce anxiety and improve functioning.

Options may be:


There are no current guidelines to prevent illness anxiety disorder.





  • Antidepressant efficacy in generalized anxiety disorder. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/management/antidepressant-efficacy-in-generalized-anxiety-disorder .
  • Anxiety disorders. National Institute of Mental Health website. Available at: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/anxiety-disorders.
  • Illness anxiety disorder. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/illness-anxiety-disorder.
  • Illness anxiety disorder. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/psychiatric-disorders/somatic-symptom-and-related-disorders/illness-anxiety-disorder.
  • Scarella TM, Boland RJ, et al. Illness anxiety disorder: psychopathology, epidemiology, clinical characteristics, and treatment. Psychosom Med. 2019;81(5):398-407.
  • Somatic symptom disorder. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/somatic-symptom-disorder.


  • Adrian Preda, MD
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.