We’ve all joked there’s a “hypochondriac” in our lives — you know, that friend who checks in with Dr Google at even the slightest hint of an ailment, or who’s always convinced their common cold is something more sinister.
However, health anxiety is actually a serious and widely misunderstood disorder. For sufferers, the fear there’s something wrong with them is so tormenting it can impair their ability to function.
In a recent episode of ABC Radio National‘s All in the Mind program, exploring imaginary illness, hypochondria sufferer Melanie James describes her constant fear about her health.
“I’ve probably thought I had cancer of nearly every part of my body, from skin cancer, breast cancer, bone cancer, lymphoma, leukaemia. I also sometimes worry about other conditions like MS or motor neurone disease, meningitis, septicaemia,” she tells reporter Lynne Malcolm.