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Review
, 20 (7), 49

Recent Advances in the Understanding and Treatment of Health Anxiety

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Review

Recent Advances in the Understanding and Treatment of Health Anxiety

Peter Tyrer. Curr Psychiatry Rep.

Abstract

Purpose of review: To examine the diagnosis of health anxiety, its prevalence in different settings, public health significance, treatment, and outcome.

Recent findings: Health anxiety is similar to hypochondriasis but is characterized by fear of, rather than conviction of, illness. Lifetime prevalence rates are 6% in the population and as high as 20% in hospital out-patients, leading to greater costs to health services through unnecessary medical contacts. Its prevalence may be increasing because of excessive internet browsing (cyberchondria). Drug treatment with antidepressants has some efficacy but is not well-liked, but psychological treatments, including cognitive behavior therapy, stress management, mindfulness training, and acceptance and commitment therapy, given either individually, in groups, or over the Internet, have all proved efficacious in both the short and longer term. Untreated health anxiety leads to premature mortality. Health anxiety has become an increasing clinical and public health issue at a time when people are being formally asked to take more responsibility in monitoring their own health. More attention by health services is needed.

Keywords: Cyberchondria; Health anxiety; Illness anxiety; Psychological treatments.

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