Hypochondriasis is a persistent fear of having a serious medical illness. A person with this disorder tends to interpret normal sensations, bodily functions and mild symptoms as a sign of an illness with a grim outcome. For example, a person may fear that the normal sounds of digestion, sweating or a mark on the skin may be a sign of a serious disease.
A person with hypochondriasis may be especially concerned about a particular organ system, such as the cardiac or digestive systems. A doctor's reassurance and even a complete medical evaluation often will not calm the person's fears. Or, if it does calm them, other worries may emerge days later.
To continue reading this article, you must login
Subscribe to Harvard Health Online for immediate access to health news and information from Harvard Medical School.