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How to Treat Hypochondria

Hypochondria, a persistent unfounded fear or belief that you have a serious, undiagnosed illness, occurs in about 5 percent of patients who seek help from primary-care doctors. A study has found that six sessions of cognitive behavioral therapy can help hypochondriacs deal with their fears. Among those who completed the six therapy sessions, almost 57 percent showed significant improvement after a year, compared with 32 percent of the control group. The downside was that one-quarter of the patients quit after being told the problem was in their heads. True hypochondria is notoriously hard to treat, in part because patients often switch doctors until they get tests or a diagnosis they can accept. However, it's important to be aware that there are also instances when a real illness, such as fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome, may be present but not widely recognized by traditional medicine.

Washington Post March 24, 2004

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