hypochondria

hypochondria

[hahy-puh-kon-dree-uh]
hypochondria, in psychology, a disorder characterized by an exaggeration of imagined or negligible physical ailment. The hypochondriac fears that such minor symptoms indicate a serious disease, and tends to be self-centered and socially withdrawn. Continually seeking professional help to reinforce his fears, the hypochondriac never feels he is receiving adequate care. Contemporary theorists have arrived at similar conclusions, suggesting that the physical ailments of hypochondriacs were a form of escape from psychological stress. The disorder is technically known as hypochondriasis, and is classified as a somatoform disorder, or one in which a psychological problem manifests itself in a physical ailment.

See S. Baur Hypochondria (1988).

Mental disorder in which an individual is excessively preoccupied with his own health and inclined to treat insignificant physical signs or symptoms as evidence of a serious disease. The hypochondriac may become convinced that he is ill even though he has no symptoms at all, or may exaggerate the importance of minor aches and pains, becoming obsessed with the fear of a life-threatening illness. A doctor's reassurances often have only a slight or temporary effect on the hypochondriac's anxieties. Hypochondriasis usually first manifests itself in early adulthood and is equally common among males and females. In some cases it may represent a psychological coping mechanism that the individual resorts to in order to deal with stressful life situations.

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