hypochondria (hĪˌpəkŏnˈdrēə) [key], in psychology, a disorder characterized by an exaggeration of imagined or negligible physical ailment. The hypochondriac fears that such minor symptoms indicate a serious disease, and tends to be self-centered and socially withdrawn. Continually seeking professional help to reinforce his fears, the hypochondriac never feels he is receiving adequate care. Contemporary theorists have arrived at similar conclusions, suggesting that the physical ailments of hypochondriacs were a form of escape from psychological stress. The disorder is technically known as hypochondriasis, and is classified as a somatoform disorder, or one in which a psychological problem manifests itself in a physical ailment.

See S. Baur Hypochondria (1988).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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