Hypochondriasis: an overview with reference to medical students
Oliver Howes provides the medical background to a seemingly very common condition
Hypochondriasis is common in primary care and general hospital settings. The diagnosis is frequently missed, and it causes considerable morbidity and a large burden to health services. Transient hypochondriasis has been reported in 70% of medical students. The definition of hypochondriasis is a persistent, unrealistic preoccupation with the possibility of having a serious disease. Common, normal sensations and appearances are often misinterpreted as abnormal and signs of disease. The diagnostic criteria for hypochondriacal disorder in the ICD-10 (international classification of diseases, 10th revision) require the following to be present1: *persistent belief in the presence of at least one serious physical illness underlying the presenting symptom or symptoms; and*persistent refusal to accept the reassurance of several different doctors that there is no physical illness.
The criteria defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fourth edition (DSM-IV), include the additional qualifiers that the preoccupation lasts at least 6 months