Is Hypochondria OCD? Or Is It Anxiety?

Written by: Ankita Kathad – MA (Clinical Psychology)

Last updated date : February 15, 2023

Hypochondria is a mental condition. In this, a person has repeated thoughts of having a serious physical illness. For example, a person having a simple headache may think that they have a brain tumour. Additionally, the person may get repeated tests to check for any brain issues. The symptoms are similar to OCD and Anxiety. In OCD, a person tends to do one thing over and over. In anxiety, a person is always worried about the unknown. Therefore, this article aims to explore if Hypochondria is OCD or Anxiety?

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Chapter 1:

What Is OCD?

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is a mental condition. Here a person has disturbing thoughts. These thoughts keep repeating. They can also have ideas or images which repeat. These thoughts are difficult to control. These thoughts also cause stress. Therefore a person engages in actions that reduce this distress. OCD in real life can look like this:
  • Fear of getting dirty. You may think that touching objects which others have touched will make you dirty.
  • You want everything to be in a certain order.
  • There is a doubt whether you have locked the door or turned off the stove or not.
  • You may be always scared that you will hurt others.
  • There are negative thoughts related to religion.
  • A person can have stressful thoughts about sex or aggression.
  • You may have disturbing thoughts of shouting abuses in public spaces.
  • They want things to be perfect always.
  • To cope with these thoughts,< a person will engage in actions like washing, counting or chanting./span>
  • Some compulsive actions are intense hand washing or following a strict routine.

Chapter 2:

What Is Anxiety?

In anxiety, a person is always worried. They are also stressed. They panic a lot. Additionally, a person may also have problems such as sweating or fast breathing. They find it difficult to concentrate. We all face anxiety at some point in our life. But for some, it becomes a disorder. Some common symptoms include:
  • Panic attacks
  • Sweating
  • Vomiting
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Muscle tension
  • Dry mouth
  • High blood pressure
  • trembling
  • Restlessness
  • Racing thoughts
  • Fatigue

Chapter 3:

Difference Between OCD and Anxiety

Negative thoughts occur in OCD and anxiety both. A key difference is in that OCD there are obsessive thoughts and compulsive actions. Someone with anxiety, on the other hand, will have fears but may not act compulsively on them. For instance, in anxiety, a person is scared that the door is open but they may not go check it again and again. Moreover, in anxiety, we can have physical signs. If we fear that the door is open, we will have panic attacks. We will have racing thoughts. On the other hand, in OCD, a person does not always have physical signs. A person can have both conditions or only one. However, both are not the same.

Chapter 4:

Is Hypochondria OCD?

We all worry about our health. Most of us love to remain fit. However, when these thoughts keep coming back, they affect our daily lives. If we become obsessed with the thought of our health, it can be harmful. We may not be able to pay attention to work. Moreover, we may compulsively check our health status. We can waste a lot of time. Even when we don’t have a disease, we may waste money on lab tests.

While certain symptoms are similar between OCD and health anxiety and both of them can co-occur. They are classified as different. One such difference is that people with OCD usually have a greater insight into their problems. On the other hand, people with health anxiety may believe that they have an illness.

OCD is related to many disturbing thoughts and compulsive acts. For instance, a person may have disturbing thoughts about religion, dirty spaces, and sexuality. However, hypochondria is specific to worry about health. For instance, here a person can think they have cancer. They may have no evidence for it except for a small lump.

In hypochondria, people are obsessed with only physical signs. These might range from the vague ones like “my lungs feel tired”. They can be specific like “I have a bad stomach ache”. In health anxiety, the person tends to constantly surf the net for symptoms. They will waste a lot of time on google for diseases. In OCD people don’t generally report physical sensations. They don’t report body pain.

Due to a lack of insight, people with hypochondria usually go to a physician. In OCD, people realise that they have a mental problem. Therefore they approach a counsellor or psychiatrist.

Chapter 5:

Is Hypochondria Anxiety?

Hypochondria and anxiety are also similar. The main reason for hypochondria is an anxious mind. This mind is constantly worried about physical health. Their worry is a key reason for health tension. In general anxiety, a person is hyper-alert. Similarly, in hypochondria, a person is always alert about health. In anxiety, a person shows avoidance behaviour. For example, they may avoid a social event out of fear of others making fun of them. In hypochondria, a person avoids doctors visits because they fear negative health news.

If you have health anxiety, you will worry about your health. You will most likely surf the internet late at night. You may identify signs and believe you have a serious illness such as heart disease. Things like stomach aches and other anxiety symptoms could be misread as something else. You may think that doctors are not checking properly. You will constantly take retests.

In general anxiety, a person is not specifically worried about health but is fearful of any kind of threat. Therefore there is an essential difference between the two. That is to say that hypochondria is more specific. The person is particularly concerned about his health only. For instance, a person with general anxiety can be fearful of social situations. The person will therefore anticipate the worst outcome in a social situation such as falling in front of others. If a person has hypochondria, they will have a very specific fear of contracting some disease at a social event. They may want to avoid the event. They may think that shaking hands in public will give them a virus.

Chapter 6:

So Is Hypochondria OCD? Or Is It Anxiety?

We have seen similar symptoms in three conditions. There are differences too. So is hypochondria OCD or Anxiety?

In all three conditions, the personal life gets affected. A child may miss school because they feel ashamed of their panic attacks. Adults may not go to parties because of constant worry or OCD. Checking behaviour in OCD and anxiety wastes a lot of time and money. This causes a financial burden on the person.

In all three conditions, we can see that the pattern of thought is recurring. For example, a person with hypochondria may run to the doctor for a minor headache. This does not allow him to observe that some illnesses go away on their own.

An overlap exists in all three. They involve a constant preoccupation. They include recurring thoughts. All of them have a fear component. All three disturb the daily life of the person. Having said that, there are important differences that exist. These differences are essential for a proper diagnosis and treatment. Therefore it is important to understand if hypochondria is OCD or anxiety.

Chapter 7:

Managing Hypochondria, OCD and Anxiety

It is good to stay fit. But always being afraid for health is unfair Similarly, we all have negative thoughts. We all overthink. But that should not cause discomfort. It should not disturb our daily lives. No amount of lab tests, doctor’s visits, or advice can ever make you feel as if everything will be fine, health worry crosses the line. Constant health checks are not a healthy way to live. In Hypochondria, OCD and anxiety, we can see that fear or worry is a common theme. Some self-help tips can be useful to help us with feelings of worry.

  • A person can take medical or mental help. They can go to a physician for their health concerns. A counsellor can help with managing the fear.
  • A person can use relaxation techniques for anxiety and stress relief. Deep breathing distracts us from stressful thoughts. It reduces worry. This helps when the person is going through physical signs like sweating.
  • Reading about the disorder for clear insight. They can read expert articles on the same.
  • A person can limit their doctor’s visit for every minor problem
  • They can talk to their loved ones for moral support.
  • Join support groups of people having similar conditions.

Finally, a diagnosis is mainly used for clinical clarity. Hypochondria may exist with OCD. It is also possible that it co-exists with general anxiety. A person can also have all three conditions. With proper counseling and medications, it is possible to live to manage all three. Many articles and books are trying to raise awareness on the topic.

At Epsychonline, many self-help courses focus on OCD and Anxiety. The articles also give a good understanding of hypochondria. These courses are curated by experts. Do have a look at them.

"Quick online learning, thanks!" Susan

92 sections

6-Weeks Self-Paced

  • Educational Content
  • Quizzes
  • Self-reflection material
  • Suggestions & feedback
  • Worksheet, tips & tools to use

$9.00 $12.00

25% discount