Presentation of Cochrane Review (in Norwegian)
Psychotherapy can help hypochondriacs
Forms of psychotherapy like cognitive therapy, behavioral therapy and stress management can reduce the symptoms of hypochondriasis (health anxiety). This is how the Cochrane Collaboration concludes after going systematically through the relevant research literature.
What is hypochondriasis and what is psychotherapy?
Hypochondriasis (health anxiety) is a condition where you fear that you are suffering from an undiagnosed illness. This fear does not disappear even if the doctor assured that you are healthy.
Health Anxiety is associated with many unnecessary doctor visits and has traditionally been considered difficult to treat. The prevalence of hypochondriasis from recognized diagnostic criteria (ICD-10, DSM-IV) is about one per cent, but there are also less stringent criteria in which more than ten percent of the population is considered hypochondriacs.
Psychotherapy is an umbrella term for structured conversations where the goal is to change the thoughts, beliefs, attitudes and behavior. Cognitive therapy focuses on thoughts, beliefs and attitudes, while behavioral therapy focuses on changing behavior. Cognitive behavioral therapy is aimed at both thoughts, beliefs, attitudes and behavior.
In Norway, we currently have only one pure hypochondriac clinic. It can be found at Haraldsplass Hospital in Bergen. Otherwise, therapy services in Norway consists largely of treatment by psychologists and psychiatrists who treat people with other types of mental disorders.
Does psychotherapy work for hypochondriasis?
The studies showed the following:
- Psychotherapy probably leads to less hypochondriasis.
This documentation is of medium quality. This means that further research will have an important impact on our confidence in these results and can change them.
- Psychotherapy may lead to less depression, less anxiety and slightly less degree of physical symptoms.
- It is possible that about equal numbers drop out from psychotherapy or on the waiting list for psychotherapy.
This documentation is of low quality. This means that it is very likely that further research will have an important impact on our confidence in the results and can change them.
What is this information based on?
An international team of researchers looked for studies that have examined how psychotherapy works on people with hypochondriasis (health anxiety). The researchers found six studies that met the requirements they had set in advance. The studies had a total of 434 participants.
The studies they found, compared participants who received various forms of psychotherapy with people who were on a waiting list for psychotherapy.