BACKGROUND Hypochondriasis is a distressing disorder for which there is no adequate established treatment. This study evaluates the effect of cognitive-behavioural treatment of hypochondriasis, compared with a waiting list control.
METHOD Thirty-two patients were randomly assigned to either cognitive-behavioural therapy or a no treatment waiting list control. Cognitive-behavioural treatment consisted of 16 individual treatment sessions over a four-month period. The waiting list control lasted for four months and was followed by 16 sessions of cognitive-behavioural treatment. Assessments were made before allocation and after treatment or waiting list control. Patients who had cognitive-behavioural treatment were reassessed three months after completion of treatment.
RESULTS Paired comparisons on post-treatment/wait scores indicated that the cognitive-behavioural group showed significantly greater improvements than the waiting list on all but one patient rating, all therapist ratings and all assessor ratings. After three months the benefits of therapy were maintained.
CONCLUSIONS Cognitive-behavioural treatment is an effective therapy for hypochondriasis. Implications of the study are discussed.