What is hypochondriasis?

Hypochondria is a mental health disorder consisting of exaggerated and intense focus on one's own health and belief in one's own illness. In most cases, however, affected individuals are completely healthy. This peculiar mental health condition is maintained by an incorrect assessment of one's own health or the body's ability to cope with a possible disease. People with hypochondriasis are constantly examining their body to see if it diverges from the norm. As a result, common manifestations such as fatigue or dizziness when getting up abruptly are interpreted as symptoms of a serious illness. The result is a typical anxiety reaction such as increased heart rate, sweating and tension.

For people with hypochondriasis, health usually means a complete absence of unpleasant physiological changes and discomfort. This is, however, completely normal in any healthy person. As a result of this belief, lives of affected individuals are increasingly constrained by the notion that something has to be wrong with them.

What are the causes of hypochondriasis?

The exact cause of this mental health condition is not clear, but as with other anxiety disorders, factors such as genetics, learned behavior, negative experiences or self-beliefs may play a role in the development of hypochondriasis.

The role of genetics in the development of hypochondriasis is probably milder, as the share of heredity is estimated at about 10-30%. Hypochondriasis is much more likely to develop if you had parents who were too worried about their health or yours. However, if you experienced a serious illness in your childhood, unpleasant physiological changes in your body may be more distressing for you than for the rest of the population. If you already have difficulty tolerating uncertainty about unpleasant or unusual feelings in your body, it can lead you to the belief that all bodily sensations are serious. All the more so, you may start looking for evidence to confirm that you have a serious illness.

How can hypochondriasis be reduced?

VIRTUO is specialized in reducing hypochondriasis. We use the most effective methods supported by years of research and practice. By providing information about important processes in the human body and engaging innovative technology, we will help you enjoy your everyday life after just a few sessions. During the sessions, we use a verified and effective technique of confrontation with a stimulus that causes anxiety. At VIRTUO, the confrontation takes place in virtual reality and follows only after mutual agreement. Another great advantage is that during the exposure, you are completely safe in the hands of an expert who will help you break the vicious circle of negative thoughts and fears.

An important step on your path to health is to realize that all physiological and psychological reactions follow certain patterns. Avoidant behavior is a habit that can be unlearned. Moreover, there are plenty of effective strategies that help you respond more calmly during unpleasant situations. Over the course of your sessions at VIRTUO, you gradually learn that anxiety-provoking situations are less dangerous than what they seem. You will learn what fear is, what happens with your brain and body when it arises and why it has become your constant companion. You will acquire effective techniques, thanks to which your hypochondriasis will soon be a thing of the past. Our method requires your active cooperation. It works most effectively when it is adapted to your unique situation and when you regularly practice all the methods you have learned at VIRTUO.

Hypochondriasis rarely disappears on its own. On the contrary, it tends to get worse over time. The sooner the affected individuals begin treatment, the more likely they are to get rid of them permanently. Although it is possible to successfully overcome hypochondriasis within a few sessions, most patients do not receive any treatment.