Illness anxiety disorder, previously known as hypochondriasis, has had a facelift of sorts in the DSM-5. The portrayal of hypochondriacs in media was so pervasive (and typically negative) that experts found both laymen and professionals approaching the disorder and those who seemed to have it from a place that was less than objective, resulting in confusion and misdiagnoses. The DSM-5 attempts to rectify that problem by both changing the name of the disorder itself and further clarifying the kind and degree of symptoms that professionals should look for when trying to diagnose it. Those filing claims for hypochondriasis – or, now, illness anxiety disorder – need to know these new guidelines so that they don’t neglect to bring up symptoms that doctors will be looking for.
This form of anxiety is the persistent fear of having a serious illness, or the possibility of getting one, despite the lack of symptoms or the presence of mild ones. The perceived serious illness becomes the focus in one’s life and the usual topic of conversation, as well as frequent medical appointments and requests for testing. Online searches for specific health topics and checks for physical changes are also frequent, resulting in additional anxiety. Over time, this obsession can lead to strained relationships both at home and at work.
Diagnosis Guidelines for Illness Anxiety Disorder
For the most part, the guidelines for diagnosing illness anxiety disorder are fairly straightforward and what you would expect. However, it’s still wise to know exactly what medical professionals are looking for when you discuss this kind of anxiety with them.
- You are preoccupied with a serious illness that you have, or the possibility that you might get one.
- You display no or only minimal somatic symptoms.
- If you have a medical issue or are at risk for one, and your anxiety over this possibility is excessive.
- You are overly anxious about your health in general.
- You are excessive in your attempts to remain healthy and engage in behaviors such as frequently checking yourself for signs that you are sick or staying away from hospitals, doctors, and other people and places that could “make you sick.”
- You have exhibited an intense anxiety over getting sick for six months or longer, though the specific fear may have altered during this time.
- This preoccupation with your health cannot be explained better by a different mental disorder, including::
- Generalized anxiety disorder,
- Somatic symptom disorder
- Body dysmorphic disorder
- Panic disorder
- Delusional disorder
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
Doctors will also attempt to place you in one of two categories of illness anxiety disorder: the care-avoidance type or the care-seeking type. Quite simply, people who fit into the care-avoidance category worry excessively but stay away from doctors and other medical practitioners, while care-seekers tend to go to their doctors more and advocate for more procedures and tests to make sure everything is okay on a frequent basis.
The cause of Illness Anxiety Order is unknown, but there are specific factors that can increase the possibility of developing IAD, including:
- History of childhood illness or abuse
- A major life stress
- A symptom that may be indicative of a serious health problem, such as chest pains
- Another form of mental disorder, such as depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, etc.
For more in-depth information on what to do when filing your illness anxiety disorder claim, talk to an experienced medical disability lawyer as soon as possible. And for additional background on disability claims, check out our free eBook on disability insurance.