Frequency of illness anxiety (hypochondriasis) by proxy encountered by doctors in parents towards their children

Dina Aly El-Gabry, Karim Abdel Aziz, Maitha Hasan Al-Hosani, Maryam Khaled Aljneibi, Amany Shouma, Dina Abu Zeid, Emmanuel Stip, Hussien Elkholy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Background: Illness anxiety disorder is a condition of having a persistent fear of having a serious or life-threatening illness despite few or no symptoms. Current classification systems assume that illness anxiety is experienced relative to one's own health, and not towards others ("by proxy"), yet it has been observed to occur in parents towards their children. This study was designed to survey doctors about how commonly they encounter illness anxiety by proxy (LAP). methods: We conducted a qualitative survey of 149 physicians who work with children (pediatricians, psychiatrists, and general practitioners) from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Egypt. The survey was administered via email and a paper-based form. In the UAE, 108 physicians were emailed the survey; 55 (50.1%) responded. For the email survey we used items from the Checklist for Reporting Results of Internet E-Surveys (CHERRIES). An additional 100 physicians were surveyed in person; 94 (94%) responded. results: Nearly all respondents (98.7%) reported having encountered LAP in parents. Of these, 51 (34.2%) reported frequendy encountering these types of health anxieties, and 50 (33.6%) reported that the parents' concern that their child had a serious disease persisted despite reassurance and appropriate medical evaluation. Seventy-eight (52.3%) respondents reported that exaggeration of actual existing symptoms was the most common reason for parents' fears; 72 (48.3%) reported that the concerned parent was more likely to be the mother; and 36 (24.2%) reported that most parents were not 100% certain of their own beliefs. conclusions: LAP is frequently encountered by pediatricians, psychiatrists, and general practitioners. Practitioners who work with children and their parents need to be aware of this phenomenon to provide appropriate support.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)254-262
Number of pages9
JournalAnnals of Clinical Psychiatry
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


Dive into the research topics of 'Frequency of illness anxiety (hypochondriasis) by proxy encountered by doctors in parents towards their children'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this