Psychotherapy Treats Hypochondria

A breakthrough study has found psychotherapy can help hypochondriacs deal with their fears.

Hypochondria is a mental, not physical, illness. Getting sufferers to believe that is part of the challenge. Even psychotherapy has limits: A quarter of the patients in the new study quit after being told the problem was in their heads. "Most hypochondriac people never will go to a psychiatrist," said study author Dr. Arthur Barsky of Harvard's Brigham and Women's Hospital. "They'll say, 'I don't need to talk about this, I need somebody to stick a biopsy needle in my liver, I need that CAT scan repeated,'" inform

The study involved 102 patients assigned to receive psychotherapy and 85 who got routine medical care. Among those who completed the six therapy sessions, almost 57 percent showed significant improvement after a year, compared with 32 percent of the control group. Hypochondria involves persistent, unfounded fears about having a serious disease. It affects about 5 percent of patients who seek help from primary-care doctors, according to

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