Hippocrates used the term hypochondrium in the 4th century BC to refer to the anatomic area below the ribs. Later, the term hypochondriasis emerged to refer to the ill effects upon the psyche and soma of humors or fluids that emanate from the hypochondrium and cause disease.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Edition (DSM-IV) defines hypochondriasis as the preoccupation with fears of having, or the belief that one has, a serious disease based on misinterpretation of bodily symptoms. In hypochondriasis, this preoccupation lasts at least 6 months and persists despite appropriate medical evaluation and reassurance. Hypochondriasis causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other areas of functioning. These diagnostic criteria were initially described for adults, and the same basic criteria are applied to children and adolescents.
Because the literature about hypochondriasis in children and adolescents is limited, this review includes adult studies that describe the most recent advances in the subject of hypochondriasis.