MENTAL HEALTH A-Z: H is for ‘House of Hypochondriacs’

On the 24th November 2015, I was made very angry.

I was made very angry because a programme which criminalised those with a mental illness was broadcasted across the nation.

Hypochondria is a very serious and debilitating anxiety disorder. Saying that, all anxiety disorders are serious and debilitating. And awful. And grim. And life-ruining.

Also known as Health Anxiety, Hypochondria is, according to the NHS, “excessive worrying about your health, to the point where it causes great distress and affects your everyday life”.

Sounds pretty horrific, no?

The TV programme showed four cases of extreme hypochondria, and being a sufferer of chronic anxiety myself I really could empathise with their feelings of panic and distress – even if I couldn’t understand quite how they got there.

The production team, however, obviously did not feel the same.

Buzzwords were being thrown around like there was no tomorrow; “Drains on the NHS…..wasting time, wasting money…. £2billion per year is wasted on the ‘worried-well’”. The premise of the show was to expose these sufferers of health anxiety to people who had ‘real’ problems, to show how much the NHS was stretched and to prove that they were ‘time-wasters’.

This is when I raised my eyebrows and looked down my nose at Dr Christian Jensen, because any doctor would know that this is just unfair. To these sufferers of hypochondria, their symptoms are all too real. The heartache of believing you’re going to die is all too real, and the medical negligence is real too.

The lady who couldn’t leave her house also felt that it was real, as did the other lady who was so emetophobic that her fear of contamination and germs was life consuming.

To be fair, I was a bit happier with Dr Christian when I saw him take a more therapeutic approach with the patients themselves, and the way that he engaged them into exposure therapy did seem to be successful.

But the negative vibes that I was getting from Channel 4, which was enforcing the stigma surrounding mental health in an era where we are trying our utmost hardest to eradicate it, were unfortunately unforgiveable.

#TimeToChange? Obviously not.

Hannah Lewis

[Image: Channel 4]

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