A helix of anxiety: A qualitative analysis of the personal experiences of individuals with health anxiety

Thesis Type: Doctorate

Institution Of The Thesis: Middle East Technical University, Graduate School of Social Sciences, Turkey

Approval Date: 2019

Thesis Language: English


Supervisor: Özlem Bozo Özen


The mind-body problem dates to old times. Hypochondria is at the center of the discussions about the psyche-soma relationship since it appears that individuals have physical complaints in the absence of “real” illness. The current study aimed to explore how individuals having hypochondriac complaints interact with their bodies and their experiences regarding the believed illness or anxiety about the illness. Furthermore, the way they establish a relationship with others, especially with physicians, other healthcare professionals, and with whom they try to get assurance was tried to be understood. Interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) was used as a method since it offers a systematic approach to study the subjective experiences of individuals by making a very detailed examination of a case. The fourteen participants between 19-55 years old, who were living in Ankara, whose questionnaire scores indicated high health anxiety and who also stated that they have anxiety about their health were included in the study. The data of the study were collected via face to face semi-structured interviews. As a result of the analyses of these interviews, four superordinate themes emerged. ‘Causal attributions of health anxiety: loss at the core as an unsettled matter’, ‘Being drawn into the vortex of the symptom’, ‘An endless call to an expert for naming own experiences and eliminating uncertainty’, and ‘Every cloud has a silver lining: Benefits of being/feeling ill’ were the themes. These themes and the clinical implications of the findings were discussed in the light of the literature.