Illness anxiety disorder

Other Names:
Health anxiety
Fear of catastrophic health problems

Illness anxiety disorder is the chronic mental state in which the sufferer is constantly occupied with a delusion that he or she is seriously ill. The individual spends a great deal of time seeking cures, has a gloomy turn of mind and is extremely self-centred. They may also experience physical symptoms of anxiety (eg hyperventilation, trembling, restlessness, lethargy, excessive sweating). He or she is unproductive and drains the resources of family, friends and society by requiring large amounts of the medical profession's time.  As well as placing a burden on the individual, it places a burden on society due to excessive health care use.  There is also little community awareness it exists. And it is often misdiagnosed as a “personality trait” rather than a treatable condition.


Data from an Australian population survey, published in 2013, found illness anxiety affects 5.7% of Australians at some point in their lives. That’s over one million people. 

Illness anxiety disorder affects both men and women equally, but the following may also be prone to the condition than the general population:

  • Individuals who are already diagnosed with a general anxiety disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Those who are showing symptoms of anxiety disorders
  • People who are going through significant life events
  • Older adults or seniors
  • Those who like to search for their symptoms online
  • People who struggle with sleep
  • Individuals diagnosed with a pre-existing medical condition such as hypothyroidism
Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 3: Good Health and Well-beingGOAL 13: Climate Action
Problem Type:
E: Emanations of other problems
Date of last update
04.07.2021 – 12:29 CEST