Am I Experiencing Health Anxiety?
Health anxiety (also referred to as illness anxiety disorder and hypochondriasis) is a condition characterized by a preoccupation with, or fear about, the possibility of having a serious, progressive or life-threatening illness, accompanied by either repetitive and excessive health-related behaviors. Am I Experiencing Health Anxiety? is an indicative screening questionnaire designed to help clients to self-assess whether they might meet diagnostic criteria for health anxiety, or whether their experiences might warrant further investigation.
Health anxiety is experienced by between 1 and 10 people out of every 100 (Stansfield et al, 2016; Kessler et al, 2005) but like many anxiety disorders, it is under-diagnosed and often goes unrecognized (Olatunji et al, 2014).
The DSM-5 diagnostic criteria for illness anxiety disorder include:
- A preoccupation with having or acquiring a serious illness.
- The absence of somatic symptoms (or if present, they are only mild in intensity). If another medical condition is present, or there is a high risk for developing a medical condition, the preoccupation is clearly excessive or disproportionate.
- A high level of anxiety about health, and the individual is easily alarmed about their personal health status.
- The performance of excessive health-related behaviors (e.g. repeatedly checking one’s body for signs of illness) or maladaptive avoidance (e.g. avoiding doctor’s appointments or hospitals).
- Illness preoccupation that has been present for at least 6 months (although the specific illness that is feared may have changed over time).
The ICD-11 diagnostic criteria for hypochondriasis include:
- Persistent preoccupation or fear about the possibility of having one or more serious, progressive, or life-threatening illnesses.
- Preoccupation which is accompanied by either:
- Repetitive and excessive health-related behaviors, such as repeatedly checking of the body for evidence of illness, spending inordinate amounts of time researching the feared illness, or repeatedly seeking reassurance (e.g. by arranging multiple medical consultations).
- Maladaptive avoidance behavior related to health (e.g. avoiding medical appointments).
- Symptoms that result in significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning. If functioning is maintained, it is only through significant effort.
Am I Experiencing Health Anxiety? is an indicative screening tool, designed to help clients self-assess whether their experiences might warrant further investigation. It is not intended to give a formal diagnosis or provide a measure of severity.
"Some people who report similar experiences to yours have a condition called health anxiety. Would you like to try a short quiz that could give us an idea of whether this problem troubles you?"
- American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.).
- Kessler, R. C., Chiu, W. T., Demler, O., & Walters, E. E. (2005). Prevalence, severity, and comorbidity of 12-month DSM-IV disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication. Archives of General Psychiatry, 62(6), 617–627.
- Olatunji, B. O., Kauffman, B. Y., Meltzer, S., Davis, M. L., Smits, J. A., & Powers, M. B. (2014). Cognitive-behavioral therapy for hypochondriasis/health anxiety: a meta-analysis of treatment outcome and moderators. Behaviour research and therapy, 58, 65-74.
- Stansfeld, S., Clark, C., Bebbington, P., King, M., Jenkins, R., & Hinchliffe, S. (2016). Chapter 2: Common mental disorders. In S. McManus, P. Bebbington, R. Jenkins, & T. Brugha (Eds.), Mental health and wellbeing in England: Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey 2014. Leeds: NHS Digital.
- World Health Organization. (2019). ICD-11: International classification of diseases (11th revision). Retrieved from https://icd.who.int/