Hypochondriasis is a preoccupation with the fear that one has, or may develop, serious disease despite evidence to the contrary. So defined, the disorder affects between 2 and 7 per cent of patients attending general medical clinics and is an important cause of physical dysfunction and disability. (1) It is also a major reason for increased health-care utilization and dissatisfaction with care received. To their physicians, patients with this disorder are an enigma and a source of intense frustration.

Unfortunately, little is known about hypochondriasis.(2) Primary care physicians have had little interest and psychiatrists see few patients with the condition. It is a pejorative label that, even if entertained, is rarely communicated. And, even if communicated, the diagnosis would not, until very recently, have led to effective treatment.

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