Similarities and differences between hypochondriasis and obsessive-compulsive disorder

We are all worried about our health, which is hard to disappear from our minds. If these thoughts become serious, they may indicate a certain condition, such as hypochondriasis or obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Hypochondria and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) have many similarities, and underlying anxiety is the root cause of these two diseases. In response, the two diseases may share multiple types of “safe behaviors.”

In contrast, there are also important differences. Let us first pay attention to their different ways, because distinguishing these conditions is important to find the best treatment.

What is the difference between hypochondria and obsessive-compulsive disorder

There are several differences between obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and hypochondriasis. Some of the more common differences are listed here.

Focus on obsession and specific attention

The biggest difference between obsessive-compulsive disorder and hypochondriasis lies in the focus of human worry and anxiety. People with obsessive-compulsive disorder have obsessions related to various topics, such as pollution, sex, religion, personal injury, or morality.

In contrast, people with hypochondria have similar concerns about obsessive-compulsive disorder, mainly related to their health.These concerns are usually related to serious diseases (such as cancer). (Nosophobia, or “cyberchondria”, is the fear of having a specific disease. )

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Focus on physical sensations

People with hypochondriasis usually focus on or even be troubled by physical symptoms, which may be very vague, such as “My heart is tired”, or very specific, such as “My throat is always sore”. People with obsessive-compulsive disorder usually pay less attention to physical sensations.

Types of help sought: medical and psychological

People with hypochondriasis often find it difficult to accept that their problem is not a physical problem, so seek medical treatment rather than mental or psychological help. On the other hand, people with OCD are more likely to seek mental or psychological help for the intense anxiety or pain caused by their symptoms.

Awareness and insight

Generally speaking, compared with patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder, patients with hypochondria have less irrational knowledge or insight into their fears. People with obsessive-compulsive disorder usually seek psychological treatment after they discover symptoms. In contrast, people with hypochondriasis usually receive psychological treatment recommended by medical experts.

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What are the similarities between hypochondriasis and obsessive-compulsive disorder

Although the differences between obsessive-compulsive disorder and hypochondriasis outweigh the similarities, there are still some similarities between the two. The important similarities are listed below.

Ways to reduce anxiety

Just as obsessive-compulsive disorder patients often use obsessive-compulsive disorder or rituals, such as counting, checking, ordering, or washing to reduce the anxiety associated with obsessive-compulsive disorder, hypochondriacs usually try to reduce health anxiety by measuring pulse or checking blood pressure. Patients with hypochondria may also often seek comfort from doctors, family members or friends to reduce anxiety about their health.

Impact on life, relationships and work

For people with obsessive-compulsive disorder and hypochondria, pain and worry are often so intense that it seriously affects interpersonal relationships and/or performance at school or work.

Safe behavior

Regardless of whether a person suffers from OCD or hypochondria, safe behaviors, such as checking or seeking comfort, are used to prevent terrible results or reduce pain and anxiety. Safe behavior feels good, so use it again and again.

Safety behaviors actually maintain the fear and anxiety they should prevent because they prevent people from gaining new experiences that help counter their concerns. For example, constantly running to the doctor for comfort at the first sign of stomach pain does not let people with suspected illness know that the dangerous symptoms usually go away on their own.

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For people with obsessive-compulsive disorder, constantly ordering shirts in the closet to prevent the death of their loved ones, they will never let them know that even though they did not perform the ceremony, their loved ones will be fine. For this reason, psychotherapy for obsessive-compulsive disorder and hypochondriasis specifically targets these rituals and compulsive behaviors.

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Only qualified mental health professionals can diagnose complex diseases such as obsessive-compulsive disorder or hypochondriasis. An extensive evaluation is usually required to make a correct diagnosis. The treatment you receive is closely related to your diagnosis, so it is important to diagnose you correctly.

If you feel that you have symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder or hypochondria, please consult your family doctor or mental health professional.

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