Health anxiety (HA, or hypochondriasis) is one of the most difficult mental health presentations for the PA to triage. Numerous investigators have demonstrated the increased prevalence of HA in the United States, particularly in the primary care setting. Between 4% and 6% of patients in general medical practice have HA.1 When symptoms of anxiety are related to a patient's physical health and future, the result is increased visits to the doctor, multiple referrals for confirmation of health care opinions, and a significant burden on the health care system. Estimates suggest that compared to patients without health anxiety, patients with HA utilize almost twice as much health care, which contributes to the estimated $42 billion that anxiety disorders cost the United States annually.2,3 Management of patients with HA is clearly important for any health care provider, particularly so for PAs in primary care settings.
Lloyd “Chip” Taylor is an associate professor of psychology and Byron Brooks is a student in the Master's in Clinical Counseling Program, both at The Citadel, Charleston, South Carolina.
No relationships to disclose.