Signs Your Child May be a Hypochondriac

Signs Your Child May be a Hypochondriac

A hypochondriac is someone who lives with the fear that they have a serious, but undiagnosed medical condition, even though diagnostic tests show there is nothing wrong with them. Hypochondriacs experience extreme anxiety from the bodily responses most people take for granted. For example, they may be convinced that something as simple as a sneeze is the sign they have a horrible disease.

Hypochondria accounts for about five percent of outpatient medical care annually. More than 200,000 people are diagnosed with hypochondria (also known as health anxiety or illness anxiety disorder) each year. While health anxiety generally begins in early adulthood, children can also experience hypochondria.

Hypochondriac Symptoms

True hypochondria is a mental health disorder. Hypochondria may show up in a child after they or someone they know has gone through an illness or a serious medical condition. Its symptoms can vary, depending on factors such as stress, age, and whether the person is already an extreme worrier.

In children, hypochondriac symptoms may include:

·         Regularly checking themselves for any sign of illness

·         Telling you about a new physical complaint almost every day

·         Fearing that anything from a runny nose to a gurgle in their gut is the sign of a serious illness

·         Frequently asking their parent to take them to the doctor

·         Asking to have their temperature taken daily (or more than once per day)

·         Talking excessively about their health

·         Happily wearing bandages like badges of honor, has one on almost constantly

·         May focus excessively on things most children typically don’t: a certain disease (example: cancer) or a certain body part (example: worrying about a brain tumor if they have a headache)

·         Having frequent pains or finds lumps that no one else can feel

·         Fearing being around people who are sick

Health anxiety can actually have its own symptoms because it’s possible for the child to have stomachaches, dizziness, or pain as a result of their overwhelming anxiety. In fact, illness anxiety can take over a hypochondriac’s life to the point that worrying and living in fear are so stressful, the child refuses to go to school or participate in outside activities.

You may be wondering what triggers hypochondria. Although there really isn’t an exact cause, we do know that people with illness anxiety are more likely to have a family member who is also a hypochondriac. The child with health anxiety may have gone through a serious illness and fear that their bad experience may be repeated. Or, they may already be suffering from a mental health condition and their hypochondria may be part of it.

Hypochondriac Treatment

Self-help for child hypochondria can include:

  • Letting your child know that sometimes focusing too much on being sick can cause anxiety that makes their bodily sensation worse
  • Trying to not talk about your own aches or pains in front of your child
  • Helping your child learn stress management and relaxation techniques
  • Encouraging older children to avoid online searches for the possible meanings behind their symptoms
  • Focusing on outside activities such as a hobby they enjoy
  • Working to help your child recognize that the physical signs they experience are not a symptom of something ominous, but are actually normal bodily sensations

Professional treatments for hypochondria include:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), which is very helpful for reducing patient fears. In this type of therapy, the child learns to recognize and understand the false beliefs that set off their anxiety. Research has shown that CBT successfully teaches hypochondriacs to identify what triggers their behavior and gives them coping skills to help them manage it.
  • Behavioral stress management or exposure therapy may be helpful
  • Psychotropic medications, such as anti-depressants, are sometimes used to treat health anxiety disorder

Get Help for Hypochondria and Health Anxiety Disorder

Being a hypochondriac negatively affects the lives of the child who suffers from it.  The child psychologists at the Children’s Center for Psychiatry, Psychology and Related Services in Delray Beach, Florida are experienced in helping those with illness anxiety. For more information, contact us or call us today at (561) 223-6568.


About Dr. Andrew Rosen

Dr. Andrew Rosen PHD, ABPP, FAACP is a Board-Certified Psychologist and the Founder and Director of The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders, as well as, the Founder of The Children’s Center for Psychiatry Psychology and Related Services.

  1. Logan Edwards

    It got me when you mentioned that an excessive worry about getting sick and constantly talking about their health is a sign that the child is a hypochondriac. To give my brother the benefit of the doubt, I haven’t really taken him to the doctor yet. So I am not sure if he is sick or not. I will take him to the medical professional first and ask them for a suggestion based on what they will observe.

  2. thomas

    i think my son is one he falls bumps his elbow like everyone has and owe go to nurse for anything and everthing so im courious??????

  3. Gayle Portell

    I’m wondering if u have offices in Broward County. I live in Sunrise. I have a 16 year old son who needs services.

  4. Ma. M

    My daughter is going through this. There hasn’t been one week this year that we haven’t been to doctors, hospitals, or this week, both multiple times. This week she convinced herself that she can’t breathe. So 4 breathing treatments, 2 chest xrays, 2 prednisone shots, an EKG, Ativan and antibiotics later it is ruled as anxiety. As a parent I had to run this to ground. I had a suspicion that’s what it was, but as a parent I can’t take the chance that it was something physically wrong. So now I am lost with what to do next. My child needs serious psychological help. I don’t know where to turn. She has 2 older brothers (one is autistic – I adopted all 3) who are just done with her complaining. She is only 14 and had a rough life. But I can’t even discuss that or she ends up with another illness or injury. Help!

    • martha mostert

      You have all my sympathy 😔 I have 12 year old son who is convinced he has cancer. Its really tough for them and for us. I hope you can find the right help for her. Good luck

  5. Pingback: Is My Child a Hypochondriac? | Parentology

  6. Catherine

    My adult daughter 40 years of age has been a Hypochondriac since she was about 18 years old.
    As she ages she’s getting worse. She has a 41/2 year old son and is recently separated (she asked her husband to leave). She has had about every test in the book and when the Dr. doesn’t tell her she’s dying if something she seeks another opinion! My question is why don’t these Drs. tell her she’s a Hypochondriac and to get psychiatric help.
    She owes the ER’s everywhere in excess of $7,000 and still the bills keep climbing! She has a job, but only makes $17.00 an hour and she misses work constantly.
    I am a RN and a very caring loving mother (age 70).
    Whenever I suggest the obvious (Hypochondria) she has a melt down and say to me so you think it’s all in my head?! And I reply “yes, sometimes you have something wrong with with other parts of your body, but in your case you have a chemical imbalance of some kind in your brain and you need help for that part of your body!!!”
    I’m am so concerned for her as she is becoming more more unable to control her life and her child’s life as she slips deeper into this Psychosis!
    Please, if anyone knows how to help please let me know!
    Being that she is well over 18 and not of danger to herself or others, there is nothing I can legally do!
    I hope I can find a way to help her before something really tragic happens!

  7. Kayli Bates

    What about when your child uses hypochondria for attention?

  8. Makayla

    I currently suffer from hypochondria and its summer.i constant worry and if I get a sunburn I immediately think I have skin cancer. I’m scared help

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