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Beginning the Treatment of Hypochondriasis

Robert M. Galatzer-Levy, MD, SC
Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1980;37(8):960. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1980.01780210118015.
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To the Editor.—  Hypochondriasis may be defined as an undue concern that one suffers from a serious illness. The term as used here corresponds to the DSM-III1 category "Atypical Somatoform Disorder (Hypochondriasis)." (No cases of somatization disorder [Briquet's syndrome] were studied.) Hypochondriasis is common and notoriously difficult to treat. Offenkrantz and Tobin2 recommend that the therapist legitimize and dignify the patient's suffering by stating that he understands the patient's fears and by refraining from interpreting the suffering as psychological in origin.During the past six years, I have treated or supervised the treatment of 15 patients (aged 19 to 58 years) who were initially seen with hypochondriasis of one month's to 17 years' duration and thereby have empirically tested this proposal. A detailed account of 12 of these psychotherapies is given elsewhere.3 The findings from this experience are summarized here.The treatment of ten patients was successfully


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