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Psychotherapies for hypochondriasis

Thomson A, Page L
Published Online: 
8 July 2009

Hypochondriasis is a condition in which the sufferer believes or fears that they have an undiagnosed serious illness. It can cause much anxiety and repeated seeking of medical help and traditionally has been considered difficult to treat. A number of different psychotherapies have been suggested as treatments for sufferers of hypochondriasis, some of which have been tested in clinical trials.

The objective of this review was to assess whether any form of psychotherapy is effective in the management of people suffering from hypochondriasis. Six studies were included in the review. Analysis of data suggested that, compared to being on a waiting list, forms of cognitive and behaviour therapy, or a non-specific therapy called behavioural stress management all improve the symptoms of hypochondriasis. However, the numbers of people in the studies were small and it was not possible to tell how much of an improvement each therapy made. It is possible that the improvements seen were due to non-specific factors involved in regular contact with a therapist rather than specific properties of these forms of psychotherapy. It was also not possible to make comparisons between the different types of psychotherapy. A study of psychoeducation was not considered to be sufficient evidence that this form of psychotherapy is effective.