How to Cope With Hypochondria

Staying offline, sticking with one doctor, and intensive therapy are all helpful.

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Be active. Exercising helps ease stress, depression, and anxiety. No need for it to be intense, either: walk the dog, go swimming, or do some gardening. Stress makes sufferers feel more anxious, and may also exacerbate symptoms they already have.

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Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). It's designed to help you recognize—and stop—behavior that's linked with your anxiety. Sometimes it includes exposure therapy: directly confronting and learning to cope with your fears. "If someone won't go to cancer hospitals because they're afraid they're going to get cancer, we take them there," says Jon Abramowitz, a professor of psychology with the University of North Carolina Clinical Psychology Program. "Or they won't exercise because they think it will blow out their heart, so we make them do it." Research suggests CBT is effective; patients typically need about 16 to 20 sessions to see a difference. "People learn to look at things more objectively. You've been to 20 doctors and they all say nothing is wrong, so what does that suggest?"

Learn about your condition. What is hypochondria? Why do you have it? Education is empowering—and can motivate you to stick to a treatment plan. Understanding the condition often helps ease sufferers' worries.