Illness Anxiety Disorder: Study suggests link between excessive fear of serious illness and early death

Severe anxiety of having a disease or illness could contribute to a shorter lifespan, as per latest study.

Illness Anxiety Disorder excessive fear of serious illness and early death
© Alexei Maridashvili
Illness Anxiety Disorder excessive fear of serious illness and early death

Mental health is among the factors that could possibly predict when you're going to die. While we can avoid things which are harmful to your health, mental health issues such as anxiety can destroy your body too.

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As reported by New York Post, having excessive fear of being sick or having a medical condition, can do very lasting, and at times, fatal damage to your body.

What is illness anxiety disorder?

National Center for Biotechnology Information states, illness anxiety disorder was previously called hypochondriasis.

Illness anxiety disorder is a psychiatric disorder defined by excessive worry about having or developing a serious undiagnosed medical condition.

So people with this condition feel persistent anxiety and fear of having serious medical conditions even if physical exams or tests prove that they are completely healthy.

People with hypochondriasis might avoid all contact with medical services due to anxiety M.T ElGassier

These fears develop even in the absence of any physical symptoms of any disease. Patients might have habits such as repeatedly checking their body for signs of disease.

Before diagnosing someone with this disorder, healthcare provides need to ascertain that the symptoms have been present for more than 6 months, and are not explained by other psychiatric conditions.

Link between anxiety illness disorder and early death

The link between early death and excessive fear of illness comes from a paper published in JAMA Psychiatry, based on a study in Sweden.

The study compared 4129 individuals with diagnosis of hypochondriasis and 41 290 individuals without hypochondriasis. These two cohorts were matched demographically.

The study found that those with hypochondriasis had increased risk of death from both natural and unnatural causes. Among the latter, suicide was the most-attributed cause.

As the paper explains, people with hypochondriasis might have so much health anxiety that they avoid any contact with medical services. This could increase risk of missing signs of serious illnesses.

The paper also highlights that chronic anxiety and depression from the disorder could worsen health problems like cardiovascular disorders. The paper highlight the requirement of further study on this, along with the need for more support for people suffering from illness anxiety.

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Sources used:

New York Post: 'Excessive fear of serious illness can lead to early death: study'

National Center for Biotechnology Information: ' Illness Anxiety Disorder'

JAMA Psychiatry: 'All-Cause and Cause-Specific Mortality Among Individuals With Hypochondriasis'

This sinister symptom of anxiety can destroy your body This sinister symptom of anxiety can destroy your body