04/23/2013 03:51 pm ET Updated Jun 23, 2013

How to Fearlessly Fight Childhood Hypochondria

In this day and age of self-diagnosis via the Internet, it seems that everyone can find something wrong with themselves by conducting a simple search of symptoms online. Sadly, even young people fall prey to this. I often hear from parents who are concerned about their children constantly complaining about their health. The parents don't know how to handle this and wonder if the children might be hypochondriacs and ask if young people can even have such a disorder. These parents are highly anxious and fearful that they are the cause of their child's health worries.

Yes, a young person can be a hypochondriac. Before accepting such a diagnosis though, parents should talk to their child's physician about the complaints in order to rule out any legitimate physical issues. They should also consider whether anyone near the child may have been ill, as the child may be worried about catching an illness. Encourage the child to speak about his/her fears, and talk to them in a reassuring way about good health, and provide information as to why he or she isn't sick. This will turn anxiety into knowledge.

Parents should consider that a child who shows signs of hypochondria might be using it as a way of getting attention and/or avoiding something unpleasant, such as chores or going to school. Think about how you can provide healthy attention to a child.

Children imitate their role models, primarily their parents. That said, parents should think about how they handle their own health issues and complaints and whether a child is simply repeating what he hears and observes. Parents can potentially make a huge difference in whether their child's symptoms of hypochondria persist or not. Teach kids in a fun way about how strong the body is and the magical powers it has to heal, repair, and fight infection. If the child has a cut or belly ache, compliment him on being brave and strong and make sure not to reward complaints as this will only reinforce the negative behavior.

To learn more about living fearlessly check out my book, BE FEARLESS: Change Your Life in 28 Days.

For more by Jonathan Alpert, click here.

For more on mental health, click here.

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