You can cure all diseases

Psychological Anxiety Disorder: Hypochondria is curable

At the age of 25, everything suddenly began to turn for Sebastian Kraemer. He was an intern in the canteen of a large recruiting company. With an effort he made it to the table, pale as chalk, with beads of sweat on his forehead.

It was just a flu-like infection that had strained his body. But when he was back in the canteen a week later and was reminded of the incident, he was afraid, afraid that it would happen again, afraid that it wasn't just the flu after all. And this fear increased.

Kraemer listened to himself more and more often. If there was a pinch in his chest, if his eyes flickered, if he had a slight headache, he sat in front of his computer and spent hours searching forums, blogs and sites for symptoms of the disease. He hoped that this would reassure himself. "But searching the Internet has never reassured me," he says.

Rather, he thought from what he had read that he was suffering from an incurable disease. Sometimes he suspected he had multiple sclerosis, sometimes cancer, sometimes cardiovascular problems. And he kept getting checked up by the doctor.

He spent several days in the hospital for a head-to-toe x-ray and examination. But the doctors found nothing. "For now I was calmed down, but after a few days doubts crept in again," he says: "Couldn't you have overlooked something?"

More on this: The fear of death as a constant companion

When fear paralyzes life

Kraemer suffered from hypochondria. This is a mental illness in which physically healthy people are very afraid of having an incurable disease. It's an anxiety disorder called.

Dealing with possible diseases takes more and more time and affects everyday life. Some sufferers move from doctor to doctor. If a doctor tells them everything is fine, they fear that they have missed something.

Professor Alexander Gerlach knows these worries from his patients. He heads the special clinic for fear of illness at the University of Cologne. Instead of hypochondria, he prefers to use the term disease anxiety disorder or somatic stress disorder.

"The terms hypochondriac or hypochondria can easily be stigmatized because in society it often implies that the symptoms are only imagined," he says: "The symptoms are mostly there and not imaginary. But they do not have to indicate a serious illness. "

He says 70 percent of GP visits couldn't identify a specific illness for a symptom, such as pinching or squeezing in a particular area. General fear of illness is widespread. But most people feel reassured after a visit to the doctor. Around 1 percent of the population is so worried about illness in everyday life that they hardly think about anything else.

More on this: Psychology of Phobias: You can do something about anxiety disorder

  • Ten ways to a happier life

    Have contact with other people!

    Relationships make an important contribution to happiness. People with strong and diverse social relationships are happier, healthier, and live longer. Close relationships with family and friends give love, purpose, support and strengthen our self-esteem. Strengthen your relationships and build new connections. This is essential for your happiness in life.

  • Ten ways to a happier life

    Do something for others!

    Caring for others is fundamental to our happiness. Helping other people makes us happier and healthier too. Giving strengthens connections between people and helps create a happier society for all. And it's not just about money - we can use our time, ideas and energy. So if you want to feel good, do good.

  • Ten ways to a happier life

    Take care of your body!

    Body and mind are interconnected. Being active makes us happier and is good for our physical health. We improve our mood and this can even help us out of depression. There are simple things we can all do every day. For example, going outside more often and making sure we get enough sleep.

  • Ten ways to a happier life

    Set goals that you can look forward to!

    Seeing the future positively is important for our happiness. We all need goals to motivate us, but they also have to be achievable. Trying to do the impossible creates unnecessary stress. Only ambitious but realistic goals will give direction to our lives and bring a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction when we achieve them.

  • Ten ways to a happier life

    Take notice of your environment!

    Have you ever had the feeling that life has to offer more? The good news: there is more. We just have to stop and notice it! Being more attentive increases our well-being in all areas of life. Living attentively in the present prevents brooding over the past or worrying about the future all the time.

  • Ten ways to a happier life

    Think positively!

    Positive emotions like joy, gratitude and satisfaction are not only good for us in the short term. Experienced regularly, studies show that they form an upward spiral. And while we should be realistic about life, with its ups and downs, it helps to focus on the positive aspects of a situation - seeing the glass half full and not half empty.

  • Ten ways to a happier life

    Don't stop learning!

    Learning has a positive effect on our wellbeing. It releases new ideas in us and helps us stay curious and engaged. Learning also gives us a sense of fulfillment and helps increase our self-confidence and resilience. There are many ways to learn new things. A new skill, a language or we learn to sing, a new sport and much more.

  • Ten ways to a happier life

    Find ways to get up again!

    Everyone faces stress, loss, or trauma in life. How we deal with it has a major impact on our wellbeing. Often we cannot choose what happens to us, but we can influence our attitude towards what happens. One finding of current research is that resilience can be learned - just like many other life skills.

  • Ten ways to a happier life

    Be satisfied with yourself!

    Nobody is perfect. But so often we compare ourselves to others. When we think more about what we don't have than what we have, it is much more difficult to be happy. When we learn to accept ourselves as we are and to be kinder to ourselves - even when something goes wrong - it increases our joy of life. It also helps to accept others for who they are.

  • Ten ways to a happier life

    Be part of the big picture!

    People who see meaning in their life are happier. You will also experience less stress, anxiety, and depression. Our religious belief can be meaningful to become a mother or father or a job. The answers vary for each of us, but they all involve a connection to something bigger than ourselves. Source of all tips:

Panic attacks - the fear of fear

Sebastian Kraemer's hypochondria also had a generalized anxiety disorder. He was worried about everything. He suffered panic attacks. And after each one the fear of the next panic attack increased. Kraemer was afraid of the fear.

The fear became particularly bad in public situations in which he could not escape so quickly. In the cinema, on the tram, at the hairdresser's. Anywhere he couldn't get out of the room quickly without a fuss. He felt dizzy, his pulse rose, he began to tremble and sweat and could hardly concentrate on the situation he was in.

In addition, his hair fell out during that time. He went bald, lost his eyebrows and all of his body hair. "I doubted that it was all psychological," he says. And then he looked again for possible physical causes and possible diseases.

What helps

Professor Gerlach and his team of therapists first get to the bottom of the patient's previous experience and behavior. Then he explains that listening too much inside the body alters the sensations. What was not noticed before is now worrying.

Patients need to learn to focus on other things. In therapy, the therapist also provokes certain body reactions so that those affected learn to deal with reactions from their body. There is also a small touch device that vibrates under the finger or a breathing device.

In addition to individual therapy, there is also group therapy. "It's good to find out that others have had similar experiences," says Professor Gerlach. In general, he also recommends relaxation exercises and sports.

More on this: How sport helps the psyche on the jumps

Sport and relaxation also helped Sebastian Kraemer. He got to know exercises like progressive muscle relaxation during a cure. He had already done psychological therapy before, but most of the time the conversations revolved around his fears.

At some point the panic attacks became too much for him. He signed up for six weeks of psychosomatic rehab. "The decisive factor for me was that I just got out of my everyday life to deal with myself and my life," says Kraemer today.

Sebastian Kraemer now advises people with anxiety disorder himself

Fear as a distraction?

He is convinced that the hypochondria can also be a distraction from other thoughts, says Kraemer. "I was facing a new chapter in my life, had to deal with how I wanted to live, whether as a single or whether I wanted to take responsibility for children, what I wanted to work as and so on."

When dealing with the possibility of being seriously ill, there is no need to deal with other things. "To look at your own life without make-up and to have to say: 'I don't like it that much!' regardless of the fears, it can be very painful, "says Kraemer.

That is why it is very important to be honest with yourself. What is not going according to plan right now? What difficult decisions are you facing? These are just two questions Kraemer learned to ask himself.

Kraemer suspects that one can subconsciously distract oneself from a lack of passions or boredom in life by dealing with possible illnesses for several hours a day. However, this was not the case with him. Professor Gerlach can imagine this mechanism as a possible factor. However, this explanation for hypochondria has not yet been well proven in research.

More: Does living alone make you sick?

Fear from the past

As a therapist, Gerlach pays more attention to whether his patients had previous experience with illnesses - with themselves or with people who are close to them. People in professions that involve disease can also be vulnerable.

Sebastian Kraemer's father died early due to a serious illness. That could have influenced his hypochondria, says Kraemer.

"If I experience blows of fate today, I'll take care of myself," he says. "When I notice that I am not feeling well, I concentrate on what is really going on, which feelings, such as sadness, need their space." He then tries not to start again, to look for possible symptoms of the disease and not to distract himself with hypothetical clinical pictures.

A little fear is good

His hair also grew back after the cure. Professor Gerlach says hair loss is not a typical symptom of an anxiety disorder. But mental and physical recovery cannot be separated. "Even a broken bone heals faster if I am mentally healthy," says Gerlach. It is important to get support from an expert in the case of mental illness.

During his cure, Kraemer also looked for answers to his most important questions. During the cure he had to imagine that he only had three days to live. The doctor wanted to find out whether Kraemer's hypochondria could be linked to the fear of death. That was not the case with Kraemer.

But in the mind game he had to imagine what else he would have liked to do. "I not only noticed that I would like to take on responsibility and have children," said Kraemer, "but also that I would like to do something that helps others in the long term."

He overcame his anxiety disorder, started playing soccer again, relaxed listening to music and even painting. And he wrote a book and a blog. In it he tells his own story to encourage other people to overcome their anxiety disorders.

A life free of fear is not desirable, says Kraemer. "Fear to a normal extent protects us from stupid things, promotes creativity and increases concentration." But he has noticed that a life free of anxiety disorders is possible if you really deal with yourself.

  • This is how you can prevent dementia


    Physical exercise not only keeps the blood vessels on their toes and is therefore useful against dementia, but it also helps the brain directly: the brain has to control the body - and adjusts itself to it. Orientation and memory improve.

  • This is how you can prevent dementia


    That keeps you young and healthy: Music, company, exercise and body control. For the prevention of dementia, there is probably nothing better than a regular dance evening. But here, too, medicine does not guarantee lifelong success: dancers can also develop dementia at some point.

  • This is how you can prevent dementia

    Do you play an instrument

    Musicians and dancers have a lower risk of dementia, researchers have been able to prove. Making music changes the structure of the brain and can help older people to stay mentally, physically and socially fit. Anyone who makes music in a group also benefits from social contacts.

  • This is how you can prevent dementia

    Train your brain

    Any form of mental activity keeps the brain going: But it's not just about solving puzzles and memorizing. Social contacts are much more important. They also challenge and promote memory. Important: Keeping in touch with others, doing and organizing things.

  • This is how you can prevent dementia

    eat healthy

    Many studies suggest that eating a healthy diet - rich in vegetables, lettuce, and vegetable fats - has positive effects on blood vessels. Scientific studies have shown that those who have a low risk of having a heart attack or stroke also have a lower risk of dementia.

  • This is how you can prevent dementia

    Smoking and alcohol ... you guessed it ...

    Tobacco and alcohol are neurotoxins. Studies show that regular alcohol abuse roughly triples the risk of all forms of dementia. Smoking damages the lungs and promotes arteriosclerosis. Both of these lead to less oxygen reaching the brain. This in turn accelerates the mental decline in old age.

  • This is how you can prevent dementia

    Avoid high blood pressure and diabetes

    If you keep your blood pressure under control, you can do something about dementia. Because it often arises as a result of cardiovascular diseases. Diabetes and obesity can also promote dementia.

    Author: Fabian Schmidt