Intended for healthcare professionals


Health anxiety: the silent, disabling epidemic

BMJ 2016; 353 doi: (Published 25 April 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;353:i2250
  1. Peter Tyrer, professor of community psychiatry1,
  2. Trine Eilenberg, psychologist2,
  3. Per Fink, clinical professor3,
  4. Erik Hedman, associate professor4,
  5. Helen Tyrer, senior clinical research fellow1
  1. 1Centre for Mental Health, Imperial College, London W12 0NN, UK
  2. 2Department of Occupational Medicine, Aarhus University Hospital, Denmark
  3. 3Department of Clinical Medicine, Aarhus University, Denmark
  4. 4Department of Clinical Neuroscience, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden
  1. Correspondence to: p.tyrer{at}

Treatable with a range of highly effective interventions

“We are glad to say, Mr Jones, that all your test results are normal and you have nothing to fear.” Mr Jones has received this message many times after being examined for many severe diseases such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, and heart disease, which over the years he has been convinced he must have. Yet, this is the core of his problem—despite how much he would like to, he cannot do what the doctor says: stop worrying. He used to attend his general practitioner frequently to be reassured that nothing was wrong with him, but the reassurance was only short lived and then the worrying started all over again. After many years of distress, Mr Jones is embarrassed that he cannot control his health worries and preoccupation and has lately avoided contact with his GP, knowing it does not help him very much.

Mr Jones is not alone. He joins many others with health anxiety. This diagnosis is a relatively recent one that will be unfamiliar to many readers of this journal. It overlaps with hypochondriasis and the new “illness anxiety disorder”1 in the American classification DSM-5, …

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