Health anxiety disorder (hypochondria or hypochondriasis) involves an unrealistic fear that one has a serious medical condition or fear that they’re at high risk of becoming ill. They may misinterpret typical body functions as signs of illness. Despite negative medical test results, people with illness anxiety disorder are persistently preoccupied with the notion that they are critically ill. These constant health worries can interfere with interpersonal relationships, careers, and overall quality of life. People with health anxiety disorder cannot control how they feel, and their fears are considered real to them. People with this disorder can be considered care-seeking, in which they spend a copious amount of time in a healthcare environment, seeking advice and medical treatment from multiple specialists. They can also be categorized as care-avoidant; in which the person is so fearful of having an illness that they avoid doctors and medical treatment all together. They may have trust issues with physicians, which can create more anxiety and fear.
Symptoms of health anxiety disorder include but are not limited to, high levels of anxiety about personal health, obsession with normal body functions such as heart rate, oversharing of symptoms and health status with others, and repeatedly checking for signs of illness. One may be more prone to health anxiety disorder if they have a history of things such as childhood illness or serious illness in the family during childhood, mental health issues such as anxiety or depression, or trauma such as rape, as well as physical and emotional abuse.