Long-term effect of cognitive-behavioural therapy in patients with Hypochondriacal Disorder

BJPsych Open. 2020 Apr 29;6(3):e42. doi: 10.1192/bjo.2020.22.


Background: Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) is an effective treatment for Hypochondriacal Disorder, but the long-term effect has not been examined extensively.

Aims: To investigate the long-term effect of CBT on Hypochondriacal Disorder using several mental health measures. Follow-up time was at least 10 years.

Method: A total of 50 patients with a long history of Hypochondriacal Disorder, diagnosed according to ICD-10, received 16 sessions of individual CBT and were followed up with an uncontrolled design. All participants were assessed before and after the intervention period, and 10 years later. Intention-to-treat mixed-model repeated-measures analysis were conducted. The study has been registered at clinicaltrials.gov: NCT00959452.

Results: Patients displayed significant improvements across all outcomes, including level of health anxiety, somatisation, symptoms of anxiety and depression, quality of life, somatisation at treatment completion. Treatment gains were well maintained 10 years later.

Conclusions: This uncontrolled treatment study suggests that patients treated with CBT for Hypochondriacal Disorder have significantly reduced health anxiety 1 year after treatment completion and the results are maintained 10 years later. The results indicate that CBT has a lasting effect, but the lack of a control group and use of only one therapist, means that care should be taken when generalising the findings.

Keywords: Cognitive behavioural therapies; anxiety disorders; outpatient treatment.

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT00959452