For some reason, people do not associate hypochondria with a disease; still, it becomes the subject of ridicule for others. When the patient obsessively describes his illness, yet invisible to the doctors and the medical equipment, the person appears to be alone with his fear and finds no support. Few people look at the root of the problem, thinking that no reason to worry truly exists. However, being in the state of fear and stress is the cause for concern itself. In the article “Hypochondria: The Impossible Illness,” Jeff Pearlman provides a consistent presentation of the issue that raises questions about the seriousness of the disorder and, evidently, a serious attitude towards people suffering from hypochondria.
In the first-person presentation, the author describes his personal disorder in a narrative manner backed by scientific proof. He begins the article as a story of his personal experience of being a hypochondriac addressing the depth of his personal concern to the reader. Having made the audience aware of the issue, he proceeds with scientific research and proof and ends the article with a separate section where he distinguishes the three types of the hypochondriacs. Jeff Pearlman aims at delivering the idea that hypochondria bears more than an exaggerated threat. The psychosomatic connection between mind and body proves that mental disorders influence physical functionality.
Although the topic of the article is tricky and relatively non-researched, the style is easy for the readers to get into the issue and the main proof is observation rather than empirical data. Apart from telling his personal story, Pearlman interviews several people involved in the matter. Suzanne Koven, being an internist at the hospital, is a controversial personality. On the one hand, an internist has a limited scientific experience. On the other hand, she directly deals with patients and observes the illness is detail. However, by saying, “All illnesses involve both mind and body,” the practitioner does not provide any specific insight into the problem (Pearlman, 2010). Koven’s observations and conclusions make up a big part of the article. Another substantial part is the interview with Brian A. Fallon, director of the Centre for Neuroinflammatory Disorders and Biobehavioral Medicine at Columbia University. He provided the information on the genesis of the issue and scientific research currently being conducted. At the end of the article, the author concludes that the treatment depends on the categorizing of the hypochondriacs and mentions 25% of primary-care patients “with unexplained medical symptoms” (Pearlman, 2010). However, he does not provide the source of this data.
Despite informal style that proves its informative rather than scientific purpose, the article has several strong points. A psychotherapist Goldmacher-Kern claims that “The brain is so powerful that it really can convince itself of illness” (Pearlman, 2010). He does not provide any data or research regarding the illnesses that occur due to particular mental activity. Unlike an intern Koven, he specializes particularly on such disorders. Meanwhile, without data, his assumption is another observation. He adds that such a disorder as hypochondria requires medication for treatment.
Surprisingly, one point raises particular interest. The author mentions the “exposure with response prevention” as the practice for treating disorders and in particular hypochondria (Pearlman, 2010). The patient faces his fear and his anxiety rises. Such practice is beneficial for the patients who are hypochondriac about having HIV. Given the patient overcomes fear by exposing to it the disorder loses its strength.
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Regarding medication, the author mentions the biggest research on using Prozac for treatment. However, the researchers who conduct the study claim: “I don’t know what to expect. But it will be very interesting” (Pearlman, 2010). Essentially, the researchers make a hypothesis for experimentation rather than involve more than 260 people to see ‘what it is going to be.’
The experiments on this matter are more than entertainment as hypochondria becomes more common for people as a form of health anxiety. On October 10, 2015, International Business Times posted the article named “Medical Trials are in Jeopardy due to Extreme Hypochondria in Americans” that reveals the matter of a case. William Watkinson, the journalist of International Business Times, investigates the dependence of hypochondria and failure of medical trials among Americans. He states that “the power of the placebo effect on US citizens is becoming stronger” (Watkinson, 2015). The study and data on placebo effect is essential while experimenting new medicines. However, this effect becomes stronger for Americans in particular. The researchers from Canada conclude that the concern of Americans about health and issues related to it rises. As a result, ‘American hypochondria’ may become a new term and new area of future study. Data suggests that every 20th person in the USA suffers from this disorder and tends to treat the least ailments.
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The other side of the problem is that tested medicaments have failed to show relevant results for such drugs as, for example, painkillers. Clinical experiments fail and inventing new medical treatment becomes a more difficult task with funding wasted for nothing. Hypochondriac reactions affect the term of trials extending from a month back in 1990 up to a year nowadays. Moreover, the number of patients who take part in the tests increases 15 times more as well. Consequently, these factors affect the outcome of the experiments, as the difference between the effects of painkillers placebos in the 1990s was three times more than now.
Comparing health anxiety and placebo effect, the researchers admit the undoubted effect of a mind over a body with the dramatic difference – the first threatens health while the latter improves it. While William Watkinson presents his arguments intensified by several research practices and data gathered throughout a certain pattern of time, Jeff Pearlman presents the ‘story’ about hypochondria with less substantial sources as the justification of the arguments. The core concern of the article is to raise awareness about hypochondria and make a shift in the attitude towards the people who suffer from stress and its consequences.