How to Cope with Hypochondria
A friend of mine is a hypochondriac. She knows where each walk-in clinic in the city is, and knows almost all of their receptionists. She is familiar with medical terminology and with “all symptoms” available on the Internet. I believe that she “knows” almost all of the general practitioners in the city.
I don’t blame my friend for her illness, nor for her constant visits to the doctor. She knows she is wasting her time, mental energy, and government’s money, and I know she is suffering a lot. For her, it’s not easy to stop visiting these medical offices.
We need to understand and accept those who are suffering from such personality disorders, and help them to find adequate medical assistance.
I hope you are not a hypochondriac, but if you are, or if you want to know more about this subject, I hope you will find something of interest to you in this article.
By definition, hypochondria is a chronic and abnormal form of anxiety about the imaginary symptoms of diseases. The hypochondriac “feels” symptoms all the time, and worries too much about health issues. A hypochondriac is preoccupied with his or her health and bodily symptoms, and has a great fear of disease.
Many hypochondriacs are also anxious, depressed, or suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). They don’t know how to stop checking their body’s symptoms; this is, in fact, a manifestation of OCD.
The problem with my friend is that she chooses the most serious, but often least probable, explanations for her “symptoms.” A headache is not a migraine or due to stress, but a brain tumor; a chest pain is not caused by tense muscles, but is a serious heart attack, and so on. On top of worrying too much, she has feelings that she is not receiving adequate help, which makes the whole problem worse.
Can you imagine a person who worries, is fearful, under stress, has OCD, and suffers from constant misunderstandings? You probably can’t, if you are not suffering from hypochondria. I remember one time when she had just come back from an appointment she said,”Everything is okay with. but I didn’t tell my doctor about my problem with .”
Here we go again.
The main problem with hypochondriacs is that they cannot fully accept assurances that there is no physical explanation for their symptoms. They feel fear and believe that they have to do something about “a major disease.” Patients with hypochondria are always asking for confirmation, even if they are reassured repeatedly that they are healthy.
My friend is a professional businesswoman who works in the financial sector. In her everyday life, she has no time for relaxation. This fear of disease, as any other fear, is unpleasant and interferes with her daily life in a negative way.
When her husband told her to see a psychiatrist, she answered, “I am not suffering from mental illness, I have real physical problems.” From the perspective of hypochondriac patients, their problems are “real” and they are generally very reluctant to see a mental health professional.
I feel sorry for my friend’s husband. Being the spouse or friend of a hypochondriac is a hard job. It’s frustrating to try to convince a person to stop going from one doctor to another for help while at the same time trying to convince the person to ask for help from a psychiatrist. Equally hard is convincing the person that he or she is okay. These people do not want to believe it, or they are not able to believe it. Either way, the result is the same. Sometimes a patient with hypochondria will realize that he or she is suffering from anxiety and not a serious physical disease, but, unfortunately, psychiatrists rarely see patients who suffer from hypochondria.
Is there any explanation for why someone suffers from hypochondria? Many contemporary theorists have suggested that the physical complaints of hypochondriacs are a form of escape from psychological stress. The disorder is technically known as a “somatoform disorder,” or one in which a psychological problem manifests itself in a physical ailment. A hypochondriac has a tendency to gain the attention and sympathy of their family and friends to avoid responsibility.
My friend has heard these explanations, but she refuses to accept them.
Do you want to know what the solution to my friend’s story was?
The first bit of good news is that hypochondria is treatable.
Second, my friend is now seeing a cognitive-behavioral therapist, and has a very good and supportive relationship with her therapist.
Third, and this is very important, she has wonderful support from her husband, family, and friends.
Today, my friend is using cognitive-behavioral therapy to change her beliefs about illness and symptoms and tries every minute to explain to everyone how “her behavior plays a role in the disorder.”
If you know someone who is suffering from hypochondria, give him or her this story to read. Who knows, maybe you’ll change your friend’s life for the better.