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Explanatory Therapy in Hypochondriasis

J Clin Psychiatry 2000;61:317-322

Objective: The aim of the study was to evaluate the effectiveness of individual explanatory therapy in hypochondriasis.

Method: Twenty patients with DSM-IV hypochondriasis were randomly assigned to 2 groups. One received explanatory therapy and was assessed again after a 6-month follow-up. The other was first assigned to a waiting list and subsequently treated with explanatory therapy. All patients received usual medical care from their physicians. Assessments involved both observer and self-rated instruments.

Results: In both groups, explanatory therapy was significantly associated with a reduction of hypochondriacal fears and beliefs, improvement in affective disturbances and anxiety sensitivity, and a decrease in health care utilization. Therapeutic gains were maintained at follow-up. Substantial residual symptomatology, however, remained.

Conclusion: The results suggest that hypochondriasis is a treatable condition and that explanatory therapy is a viable therapeutic tool. Further research should disclose the actual components of the mechanism of change in hypochondriacal patients.