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Hypochondriacs

Posted by monablair (My Page) on
Wed, Feb 22, 06 at 23:39

I can't be the only one who knows people that suffer from this problem. These are the ones whose headaches are thought to be the foreshaowing of a brain tumor. The same ones who invariably suffer every known side effect attributed to a medication. The same ones whose aches are unbelievably painful to the point they cannot function. The ones who self diagnose and then doctor shop until they find a doctor who will arrive at the same conclusion. The ones who feel only surgery will help them and look for a surgeon who will remove the offending body part.

How do you deal with these friends or family members? Do you pretend to be sympathetic? Do you flat out tell them they need to see a shrink? Do you just avoid being around them? Or do you just let them ramble on about their latest doctor's appointment and medical problem and pray you don't look bored while you listen?


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Hypochondriacs

I used to complain a lot to my DH (a physician) about my mild headaches that I had almost daily for about 6 months. I also was too tired to do anything around the house but sleep and eat. He had no sympathy for me and gave me those bored and irritated looks until one day my eyesight kind of went out and I was diagnosed with 2 brain tumors! Everyone thought I was crazy too until I was finally diagnosed. I had lots of symptoms, but none of mine were severe enough or specific enough (until I lost my eyesight) for them to make any kind of diagnosis. Until that point there was never any reason to even order an MRI, they just thought I was becoming some nutty, lazy, middle-aged woman. I know some people truly are hypochondriacs, but sometimes it is difficult to find the problem. I have a very good friend that had a baseball sized brain tumor. It was only diagnosed because she could not get pregnant (it was pressing on her pituitary gland). It was causing other mental problems and headaches, but all of the doctors attributed her problems to the stress of infertility. She finally convinced her GYN to order an MRI and she had surgery within a week of the diagnosis.


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RE: Hypochondriacs

That's awful. I'm so sorry, are you okay now? Did your husband feel guilty for dismissing your symptoms?

I'm speaking more about the people who have a "disease d'jour" and have had symptoms of severe illnesses for years that should have manifested with true physical evidence.

I have a cousin that saw a movie when she was about 23 yrs old and left the movie convinced she had incurable cancer. For years she went from Dr to Dr trying to prove she was right. She wasn't. One morning she awoke with a small insect bite on her thigh and knew she had been bitten by a brown recluse spider. She hadn't been. Another time she had a slight case of diarrhea and was convinced she was infected with intestinal parasites from eating fresh strawberries. At another time she was convinced she had Lupus. She didn't.

Her purse looks like a well stocked medicine cabinet. The only time her conversation becomes lively is when she speaks of her latest ailment.

How do others deal with relatives like this?

These are the situations I'm speaking of.


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RE: Hypochondriacs

My now-deceased MIL was a hypochondriac to the nth degree!

She had "reactions" to every medication she took; she could not eat "garden" (loose-leaf) lettuce, but she could eat iceberg lettuce from the grocery store; she had to have bottled water as city tap water made her sick. One of her doctors once gave her a placebo for an imagined illness and, of course, she had an adverse reaction to that. My spouse at one time when she was out of the house, dumped out the bottled water and replaced it with tap water - she never knew the difference.

When she finally was diagnosed with a real, genuine disease, diabetes, she refused to follow her doctor's orders regarding diet and exercise - and, naturally, the diabetes finally killed her.


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RE: Hypochondriacs

There is a book called "Treating Health Anxiety." I think it is a self-help bk. These people are supposed to benefit from cognitive-behavioral therapy. I think you would be doing the person a favor to tell them that they need counseling, although the disorder is hard to treat - especially if they get secondary gain out of it (sympathy). Good luck!


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RE: Hypochondriacs

Hi everyone. Do you mind a lurker joining in? I have a mil like this, and it is really frustrating. If you just listen politely, she sometimes gets really angry that you aren't givingher enough "validation". It really is a pita.

Susan


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RE: Hypochondriacs

Mostly a lurker here, too. I have a bil like this. He's been as far as the Mayo Clinic with some of his imagined ailments, to which the only diagnosis was to lose weight. I'm no doctor, but if I were to hazard a guess, I'd say he needed to get off the recliner and do something other than talk himself into aches and pains. In all the years he's been around, none of us have ever figured out what to do with him when he starts in. We just politely nod our heads and say 'that's too bad.' However, it has gotten him out of work for the last 20 odd years.


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RE: Hypochondriacs

My mother! I just don't even listen any more. She has a new deadly disease every single week. There is not a human being who could have survived even one tenth of all the illnesses she thinks she has. The worst part is, someday it will be for real and since she has cried wolf so often, nobody will believe her.


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RE: Hypochondriacs

I think there are alot of illnesses that we aren't really aware of, and I'm sure lots of people look like hypochondriacs, who might have one of these.
Having fibromyalgia myself, I'm very sensitive to people viewing me as a hypochondriac. Many of us have a million tests, which are negative, but we still have unexplainable pain, fatigue, etc.
I DO have a fear of being sick. It got so much worse during perimenopause. But I've learned to try to differentiate between pain that signals something's really wrong, and pain that is not as important.
It's been really hard to differentiate things at times.
For me, (and I'm NOT saying I'm a hypochondriac.....but I think I can relate to people who are too concerned with their health), I've learned that if I have tests that are negative, cat scans, etc., that show nothing......then I can be pretty sure there's nothing life-threatening going on with me, and I can let it go. I think hypochondriacs can't let it go.
I think people who have fears that they are dying from something need to be reminded of the healthy aspects they have. This better state of health should be reinforcement for them, that they are not dying.
I think there's several possibilities for people who are hypochondriacs. Perhaps they have some emotional needs that aren't being met. But.......I'm really starting to think that it's a brain disorder. Just like I think anorexia is a brain chemical imbalance. And I'm not sure any amount of psychotherapy will help them permanently.
So even though I know it gets REALLY old when people are always talking about their health, I'm not sure they have control over it. It's like a type of compulsive obsessive disorder, or something.
I think if I were around someone like that, I would be sure they had seen the doctor and had tests, and they were normal.
I would offer an occasional opinion about what they might do to feel better. But I also would definitely say things like "I know you have these fears, but you've been to the doc, and all is okay. Maybe you should try to focus on other things." Then I just wouldn't respond to alot of their other complaints, if they continue to bring them to you.
Maybe knowing what might be going on or not is easier for me, being an R.N., but negative tests go a long way for me, to convince me someone is not dying.
If someone is dying, they usually have weight loss, and start looking sickly. I guess I would just try to be firmly compassionate......or is that compassionately firm?
:)
I have a friend who is like this. There is ALWAYS something she has. She tries tons of weird diets, supplements, etc. I've just learned to ignore her, unless something sounds really serious.


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RE: Hypochondriacs

I know people think I'm a hypochondriac, and definitely my doctors. All I want is m life back. Up until 5 years ago I was extremely active, worked full time plus, was social. Now I'm in excruciating pain all the time and can't do anything. Funny thing is, unlike a lot of people I don't think its something fatal, I think its probably a simple easy to fix problem, but when docs see a woman of a relatively young age (40) with vague complaints head to toe and pain, they see one or both only-hypochondriac/pill seeker. Because of this they don't even bother looking seriously into it and the problem, whatever it may be, has just snowballed because its been so long-5 years now:(


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RE: Hypochondriacs

Jenn, I am just like you! 4 years ago I started sleeping for 16-18 hours a day, always fatigued, I would start vomiting uncontrollingly for hours on end, and I finally got fired from my job. I did get long term disability which was great (it was based on my salary PLUS tips which I made a lot of as a casino dealer and this was before the recession) but it gave me time to figure everything out.

Even the Mayo clinic couldn't help me. But finally it came to light that no doctor EVER gave me a thyroid test. I had severe hypothyroidism. My levels were over 4x the highest normal range (40x the lowest) and once I got on the thyroid meds I felt great, except for the stomach.

My stomach problems were diagnosed with two colonoscopies, three endoscopies, two gallblader tests (gallbladder was dead, they did surgery to take it out), and I was finally diagnosed with a hiatal hernia (behind my sternum), severe acid reflux disease and Irritable Bowel Syndrome. I also lack an enzyme that helps digest food, so if I don't take the pill it sits there in my stomach and rots until I threw it up.

So while we were looking for one disease, I had six problems.

I had all the symptoms and mental attitude of a hypochondriac and could tell no one really believed my symptoms, and I hated that feeling because I don't lie.

Since then, I got my job back a year ago, have doubled the amount of thyroid meds because they are helping so much but my levels still aren't low enough (getting there, last test was around 8, normal is .45 to 4.5 and I started at a 17.4!), and am on several acid reducers and digestive meds.

I know that all I could talk about was my illness because that was really all I had in life at that time, but I wasn't a hypochondriac. Okay, enough about me, just sharing a similar story on why people talk about their illnesses.

If it a true hypochondriac (headache = brain tumor, red spot = deadly spider bite), call them on it and say "until you get the results don't worry about it. Let's talk about something positive to keep your mind off of that". If you say that often enough they will quit coming to you for sympathy. But only do this if it is a true hypocondriach. My mom's and my relationship was damaged really beyond repair because she thought I was faking, and she called me "lazy" because I slept so much and couldn't eat certain foods (she is a great cook and teaches cooking, but she likes to use spices I can't have and still won't cook with my illnesses in mind).

Like I said, if you really love and care about the person, change the subject every time until they get the hint. Tell them firmly "we are only going to talk about POSITIVE things here" and be prepared to walk away if they don't quit the "sick" talking. If it is a casual aquaintance, cut them out of your life the best you can. Not easy, but it has to be done.

Jenn, let me know what happens in your case. I am really interested in this subject.


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RE: Hypochondriacs

I don't know of anyone that fits into the categories you mentioned.

I am guilty of the side effects, but there's no hypochondria involved. I am very sensitive to meds and only want to quit them. I found I no longer need the blood pressure meds and I feel so good. I would advise everyone out there to check and see if they still need their BP meds. My sis and I both found out we don't need them. The only way you can check is do without them. My last doc had the numbers way to low in the first place. My new doctor was very upset with her numbers, they weren't safe. My bp was so low I was having dizzy spells.


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