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When caring for health crosses borders

When caring for health crosses borders

Photo: Freebek

Fear of getting sick, also known as obsessive illness or illness anxiety disorder, is characterized by an excessive fear of contracting a serious illness.

This is a disorder that causes worsening and uncontrollable anxiety about one's health, often leading to excessive use of medications and impairment of one's social life.

“In addition to genetic problems, the life history of each patient can lead to the development of the disorder,” explains psychologist Felipe Colombini.

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He highlights that “among the factors that can cause the problem are trauma and neglect during childhood, bouts of illness in oneself or in the family, as well as the presence of other disorders such as anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and panic syndrome.”

According to the psychiatrist, the disorder tends to begin in early adulthood, but it can also appear in people of advanced age (after the age of sixty). Its main symptoms are constant anxiety about one's health and the misleading belief that the person has a serious illness.

“For these people, any physical signal can be a cause of a lot of anxiety and suffering, leading to increased isolation,” the expert comments.

In general, people with this disorder spend a lot of time thinking about the future, in a context in which they imagine falling ill, being hospitalized, or receiving care, among other unpleasant scenarios.

The constant state of alertness harms the individual's social life, keeps him away from leisure and entertainment activities, and, in many cases, makes it difficult to live with.

“The whirlwind of bad thoughts that surround illness anxiety disorder often paralyzes the patient's life, a situation that tends to get worse over time if the problem is not treated,” Colombini says.

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Important signs of illness anxiety disorder

The psychiatrist warns that there are some classic signs that may indicate that a person is suffering from the disorder, such as the need to undergo repeated examinations to ensure that he is not sick, self-medication, continuous research for symptoms, diseases and treatments, habitual complaints of pain and feeling of malaise, in addition to fear. From seeing doctors and discovering a serious condition.

asking for help

The first step in treating illness anxiety disorder is to undergo a careful health evaluation with doctors and psychiatrists to rule out other illnesses or disorders.

“After this assessment, systematic follow-up with a psychiatrist and psychologist will help the person develop ways to understand their thoughts and place them in the context of illnesses, and then be able to develop strategies to deal with these compulsive behaviors,” says Colombini.

“Psychotherapeutic support in these cases is essential to help the patient have a good quality of life and even prevent the emergence of more serious disorders,” he concludes.