Sometimes recognizing hypochondria takes a little time.
It wasn't until Rebecca Serrano (not her real name) had been married for a
full year that she realized her new husband had a problem. Once, he was
convinced he had testicular cancer -- but he wouldn't go to the doctor. Another
time, when he got a sinus infection, he thought it was a brain tumor.
"This anxiety literally led him to feel more pain than a normal person would
feel. He had panic attacks and was in such a slump over any minor...
"The presence of anxiety, of a depressive mood or of a conflict within
the mind, does not stamp any individual as having a psychological problem
because, as a matter of fact, these qualities are indigenous to the
species," says Charles Goodstein, MD, clinical professor of psychiatry at
NYU Medical Center in New York City.
But if living on the "last straw" has more or less become your way
of life, experts say there's something on your mind that is crying out for your
"The key is how often you are feeling this sense of distress, how bad it
gets, and how long it lasts; that is what can help determine the seriousness of
your situation," says Abby Aronowitz, PhD, the director of
To help you gain some important perspective on the problems in your life,
three experts helped WebMD put together this list of symptoms you should not
ignore. If any of these signs seem true for you, speak to your family doctor
and request a complete physical. If everything checks out OK, ask your doctor
if you might benefit from professional counseling.
Sleep and Weight
1. Sleep disturbances. If you're sleeping more than usual
or less than usual, if you can't fall asleep or wake up after only a few hours
and can't go back to sleep, experts say emotional distress may be looming large
in your life.
"If you have recurring disturbances of sleep more than once or twice a
week, and there are no physical reasons your doctor can identify, your problem
may be linked to a psychological problem -- most commonly, anxiety or depression," says Goodstein.
2. Dramatic weight fluctuations/changes in eating patterns.
Have you gained or lost a significant amount of weight without any changes in
your diet or exercise regime? Do you find yourself constantly thinking about
food -- or repulsed by the thought of eating? If so, experts say it could be a
sign of emotional distress.
"Constant preoccupation with food, weight, and body image is a sign that
an eating disorder is sapping energy from other areas of life," says
Aronowitz. In women and young girls a loss of menstruation in conjunction with changes in
appetite can also be a sign of trouble.
Also look out for a lack of appetite. Goodstein says it can sometimes be a
sign of depression.
Unusual Symptoms and Short Fuses
3. Unexplained physical symptoms. If, despite a complete
physical workout and even a visit to a specialist or two, no one can find a
reason behind your physical complaints, it may be your body's way of letting
you know that your mind is in distress.