Hypochon­dria rise in re­gion

IN­TER­NET BLAMED Fig­ures

Sunday Sun - - News - JACK ELSOM [email protected]­plc.com

Re­porter MORE than four peo­ple a week are be­ing re­ferred for hypochon­driac treat­ment in the North East as ex­perts blame so­cial me­dia for in­creas­ing lev­els of anx­i­ety.

For the first time NHS fig­ures have re­vealed the num­ber of peo­ple re­ceiv­ing re­fer­rals and treat­ment for the men­tal ill­ness where con­stant wor­ry­ing about health con­sumes one’s life.

Last year in the New­cas­tle area 285 pa­tients were pre­scribed treat­ment for hypochon­dria and of this num­ber 280 peo­ple started ther­apy.

The re­gion is split into six Clin­i­cal Com­mis­sion­ing Groups (CCG) which are re­spon­si­ble for pro­vid­ing treat­ment for hypochon­dria which in­volves cog­ni­tive be­havioural ther­apy and mind­ful­ness.

North Ty­ne­side CCG and Sun­der­land CCG had the high­est num­ber of re­fer­rals last year with 75 pa­tients rec­om­mended treat­ment.

South Ty­ne­side CCG had the fewest re­fer­rals in the re­gion with only 20 pre­scribed ther­apy.

Ex­perts have warned that hypochon­dria is be­ing driven by the rise of so­cial me­dia and the in­ter­net.

The NHS has said that symp­toms of hypochon­dria in­clude ob­ses­sively look­ing at health in­for­ma­tion, which has be­come more ac­ces­si­ble with search engines such as Google.

Dr Ka­sia Szy­man­ska, a reg­is­tered psy­chol­o­gist and BABCP ac­cred­ited psy­chother­a­pist, said: “So­cial me­dia can have both a pos­i­tive and neg­a­tive im­pact on health anx­i­ety or hypochon­dria.

“On the pos­i­tive side ac­cess to the in­ter­net al­lows in­di­vid­u­als to learn more about dif­fer­ent men­tal health prob­lems, even nor­malise their symp­toms and as re­sult they may go to see their GP to seek treat­ment.

“On the neg­a­tive side peo­ple of­ten Google pos­si­ble symp­toms and then start to worry about hav­ing symp­toms or be­lieve what they read, for ex­am­ple that headaches are caused by brain tu­mours.

“A per­son with health anx­i­ety can mis­in­ter­pret sen­sa­tions as a sign of some­thing ter­ri­ble. The key point here is the mis­in­ter­pre­ta­tion can lead to ex­ces­sive wor­ry­ing and check­ing be­hav­iour.

“There are lots of rea­sons why peo­ple de­velop health anx­i­ety, it maybe that some­one in their fam­ily is anx­ious about their health or that a fam­ily mem­ber or friend has re­cently died or fallen ill, so un­der­stand­ably they start to worry about their own health. The treat­ment is cog­ni­tive be­havioural ther­apy which is a widely avail­able short term ther­apy both via the NHS and pri­vately in which in­di­vid­u­als learn new strate­gies to re­duce and man­age their symp­toms.”

Across Eng­land, 22 re­fer­rals a day were made for peo­ple with hypochon­dria in 2017/18, a total of 8,132 in the year. Some 7,891 peo­ple started treat­ment within the year, and the av­er­age treat­ment length was eight weeks. More than four peo­ple a week are be­ing re­ferred for hypochon­driac treat­ment in the North East

55 N/A 20 75 60 75 50 N/A 25 70 60 75 30 10 25 45 40 35

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