Recent Blog Articles

Illness Anxiety Disorder

March 13, 2019

What Is It?

Illness anxiety disorder is a persistent fear of having a grave medical illness. A person with this disorder pays excessive attention to health. He or she can become easily alarmed by anything that might be interpreted as a sign of illness, including normal sensations, bodily functions and mild symptoms. For them, such experiences may signal 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 indicators of life-threatening disease.

Terminology has changed for disorders of this type. The field has moved away from using the word “hypochondriasis,” because it is a demeaning term. The word “somatization” has been replaced by “somatic symptoms.” It seems like a small difference but the change acknowledges that the person’s physical (i.e., somatic) symptoms are real.

To continue reading this article, you must log in.

Subscribe to Harvard Health Online for immediate access to health news and information from Harvard Medical School.

  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online »

I'd like to receive access to Harvard Health Online for only $4.99 a month.

Sign Me Up

Already a member? Login ».

Disclaimer:

As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.