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For at least 2,000 years, doctors have found it difficult to relieve their hypochondriac patients of symptoms. But recently, an approach rooted in behavior modification techniques has been shown to help.

Jeffrey Levenkron, a clinical psychologist at the University of Rochester, said this approach had restored the health of an assembly-line worker whose chest pain had rendered him an invalid, even though tests showed no heart disease.Sometimes, the whole family must change habits before the patient recovers, Levenkron says. After identifying which habits are sustaining the pain and suffering, Levenkron encourages the patient and his family to adopt new habits which lead to improvements in health.

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