hypochondriasis - March 30, 2004 A New Era in Treating...

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March 30, 2004 A New Era in Treating Imaginary Ills By MARY DUENWALD very doctor recognizes them. The man who discovers a bruise on his thigh and becomes convinced that it is leukemia. The woman who examines her breasts so frequently that she makes them tender, then decides that the soreness means she has cancer. The man who has suffered from heartburn all his life but after reading about esophageal cancer has no question that he has it. They make frequent doctors' appointments, demand unnecessary tests and can drive their friends and relatives — not to mention their physicians — to distraction with a seemingly endless search for reassurance. By some estimates, they may be responsible for 10 to 20 percent of the nation's staggering annual health care costs. Yet how to deal with hypochondria, a disorder that afflicts one of every 20 Americans who visit doctors, has been one of the most stubborn puzzles in medicine. Where the patient sees physical illness, the doctor sees a psychological problem, and frustration rules on both sides of the examining room. Recently, however, there has been a break in the impasse. New treatment strategies are offering the first hope since the ancient Greeks recognized hypochondria 24 centuries ago. Cognitive therapy, researchers reported last week, helps hypochondriacal patients evaluate and change their distorted thoughts about illness. After six 90-minute therapy sessions, the study found, 55 percent of the 102 participants were better able to do errands, drive and engage in social activities. Antidepressant medications, other studies indicate, are also proving effective. "The hope is that with effective treatments, a diagnosis of hypochondriasis will become a more acceptable diagnosis and less a laughing matter or a cause for embarrassment," said Dr. Arthur J. Barsky, director of psychiatric research at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston and the lead author of the study on cognitive therapy, which appeared in the March 24 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association. Almost everyone has inexplicable physical symptoms from time to time, and many people experience a moment of worry that their odd rashes, bumps or pains are signs of Find more related articles by selecting from the following topics: Pathology Psychiatric and Mental Health Services Psychology Social Sciences Track a subject by e-mail They Call It Meditation in Motion, but Does Tai Chi Heal Ills? (Apr 13, 2004) Those Embarrassing Ills (Mar 23, 2004) Advice for Treating Prostate Cancer Revival (Mar 17, 2004)
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real trouble. But an official diagnosis of hypochondria, according to the American Psychiatric Association, is reserved for patients whose fears that they have a serious
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This note was uploaded on 08/12/2008 for the course PSY 301 taught by Professor Pennebaker during the Spring '07 term at University of Texas at Austin.

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hypochondriasis - March 30, 2004 A New Era in Treating...

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