A Randomized Controlled Trial of Medication and Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for Hypochondriasis

Am J Psychiatry. 2017 Aug 1;174(8):756-764. doi: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2017.16020189. Epub 2017 Jun 29.


Objective: Prior studies of hypochondriasis demonstrated benefits for pharmacotherapy and for cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). This study examined whether joint treatment offers additional benefit.

Method: Patients with DSM-IV hypochondriasis (N=195) were randomly assigned to one of four treatments-placebo, CBT, fluoxetine, or joint treatment with both fluoxetine and CBT. Evaluations assessed hypochondriasis, other psychopathology, adverse events, functional status, and quality of life. The primary analysis assessed outcome at week 24 among the intent-to-treat sample, with responders defined as having a 25% or greater improvement over baseline on both the Whiteley Index and a modified version of the Yale-Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scale for hypochondriasis (H-YBOCS-M). The Cochran-Armitage trend test assessed the hypothesized pattern of response: joint treatment > CBT or fluoxetine treatment > placebo treatment.

Results: The predicted pattern of response was statistically significant, as shown by the following responder rates: joint treatment group, 47.2%; single active treatment group, 41.8%; and placebo group, 29.6%. Responder rates for each active treatment were not significantly different from the rate for placebo. Secondary analyses of the Whiteley Index as a continuous measure revealed that, compared with placebo, fluoxetine (but not CBT) was significantly more effective at week 24 in reducing hypochondriasis and had a significantly faster rate of improvement over 24 weeks. Fluoxetine also resulted in significantly less anxiety and better quality of life than placebo. Dropout rates did not differ between groups, and treatment-emergent adverse events were evenly distributed.

Conclusions: This study supports the safety, tolerance, and efficacy of fluoxetine for hypochondriasis. Joint treatment provided a small incremental benefit. Because approximately 50% of patients did not respond to the study treatments, new or more intensive approaches are needed.

Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00339079.

Keywords: Clinical Drug Studies; Drug-Psychotherapy Combination; Somatoform Disorders.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy / methods*
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Female
  • Fluoxetine / adverse effects
  • Fluoxetine / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Hypochondriasis / diagnosis
  • Hypochondriasis / therapy*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Quality of Life / psychology
  • Young Adult


  • Fluoxetine

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT00339079