How to deal with a friend who is a hypochondriac?

posted 1 week ago in Relationships
Post # 2
70 posts
Worker bee

There’s a difference between being a hypochondriac and having Münchausen syndrome. 

I am a little bit of a hypochondriac and the app ‘Ada’ has really helped me realise I do not have X cancer. I recommend it to her as it helps to offer realism where the internet does not. I think it’s also created by doctors. Is there any way you can tactfully do so?

If it’s the latter, perhaps you can speak to someone close to her to get her help.

If it’s neither (and I have no idea based off this post), and she is just doing it for attention but without it being a mental condition, you could not give her the reaction she wants, which hopefully over time will reduce how often she does it.

Post # 4
2308 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: March 2017

My mom is like that to the extreme. She has somatic delusions. It can make her quite difficult to be around. If you can, try to encourage positive behavior. Try to get her to talk about other things–give attention when she talks about other things, but don’t give her a lot of attention for the somatic stuff. Otherwise, you might just have to distance yourself from her. 

Post # 5
2928 posts
Sugar bee
  • Wedding: June 2017

Do you think she could have illness anxiety disorder? Or do you think she is making it up for attention? Either way I think speaking to a mental health professional would be the next step here. 

Post # 6
13842 posts
Honey Beekeeper
  • Wedding: November 1999

I would just not acknowledge it as best as I can. If she mentions an illness, just say, “Sorry to hear that, hope you feel better” and change the subject. If it interferes with plans, just say “We’ll miss you.” Don’t ask follow up questions, don’t engage. She’s either consciously or unconsciously looking for attention – don’t give it to her. 

Post # 7
1007 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: July 2013

The other side is that plenty of people who are dismissed as hypochondriacs actually  have something medically wrong. My friend went to doctors for several years before someone finally figured out she had chronic Lyme disease. Although you are medical, you are not treating her, so you don’t have enough information to decide whether she is sick or not. I think it’s a good thing you have never “called her out” in front of other people as that would be an inappropriate way to deal with her.

Post # 8
4565 posts
Honey bee

happyjuju :  She may have health anxiety disorder. Even though you are “medical”, that does not mean anything. You are not assessing her, ordering labs/diagnostics, giving treatment, etc so you have no idea what’s going on. It is not fair for you to pass judgement and be dismissive. Can you imagine calling her out in front of others only to find out you might be wrong after the fact?  It can backfire and the only person you will make look bad is yourself and no one else. 

Regarding it being worse, meaning that this condition is pre-existing, I read a medical journal regarding post partum. It said that women after having children, their health anxiety can worsen because prior, they only worry about themselves. Now, it may be worse because it might look like they are worrying about themselves from the outside. However, they are actually worried about their children subconsciously because now they have other responsibilities (a mother now with babies and kids). The best thing is for her to be evaluated by a professional and receive appropriate treatment accordingly. 

Post # 9
680 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: January 2005

happyjuju :  I see two issues here. Please bear with me. For months I was not well, but didnt exactly know what was wrong with me. My symptoms could have been any number of things. I had night sweats, they attributed to entering early menopause, my weight kept changing, they kept saying it was thyroid, I was tired all the time, they said it was nothing, probably because of the night sweats. I had a lymph node grow to two times its normal size, and then they thought it was MONO. I had abdominal pain and they thought I had ulcers. 

It ended up being Non Hodgkins Lymphoma. Took me nearly a year to get a proper diagnosis. Thank God I didnt just go home and wait it out. As another poster pointed out, many people dont get a diagnosis when they in fact have a major issues.

The other issue could be that she is struggling to find herself when her life has been taken over by babies, it might be a cry for help as opposed to a cry for attention. Her babies are small, she is stuck at home with a husband who is away, she may be crying out for help. She may need someone to check on her and see how she is doing so that she has some sort of interaction that isnt child related. 

I would be very careful about calling her out on what you see as a fake medical problem. I had several people, my own mother even, tell me that there was nothing wrong with me, then I got a cancer diagnosis and those people who were less than supportive of me now dont even both to call me because they are ashamed of themselves. 

Post # 10
331 posts
Helper bee

How long has she been doing this for? I think you just need to talk to her in person about it. She could be a hypochondriac, have Münchausen’s, have health anxiety, or something could actually be wrong with her physically. You can’t just dismiss her symptoms and feelings. 

Post # 11
9365 posts
Buzzing Beekeeper

Agree with many of the PPs here. OP, if you’re a medical professional (at least I assume that’s what you mean by saying “I’m medical”), then you of all people should know that (1) not all people suffering from an illness show symptoms 24/7 and (2) there are so many possible ailments out there that unless you’re a specialist in literally everything (and unless she’s your actual patient), you can’t just affirmatively conclude that someone is or isn’t sick based on casual interactions with them.

I personally see very little benefit to calling her out — Maybe you’re right and she’s faking it, in which case I highly doubt she’d suddenly just stop acting this way. Maybe you’re wrong and your friendship ends.

Post # 12
6643 posts
Bee Keeper
  • Wedding: September 2016

I have a loved one who dramatizes everything that happens in her life and it’s usually negatively dramatized as well. It’s not medically focused, but she tends to spiral out and go straight to catastrophe about things. I used to get very caught up in what I might be able to do to help her fix these issues. Then I realized it was just her and that relationship with her means watching her do that from time to time. Other people have lovingly called her out and she knows that she does it. I will, occasionally, point out that the last catastrophe didn’t come to pass and so maybe this one won’t either. Generally, I just refuse to get caught up in her spiral and I check back later when she’s better (and on to the next drama).

Only you know what you have the capacity to tolerate and you should be whoever you are as honestly and compassionately as you are able. I have limited capacity to deal with perpetual dramatics and people around me know that. The people around you know you, as well. Also, if your friend needs attention, then only way she can really get what she needs (which is authentic connection) is to have someone speak to her about what is really going on (rather than engaging with her medical dramas). If she is actually ill (whether mentally or physically), asking more questions may bring that to light, but it also isn’t really your job.

Post # 13
479 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: July 2019

Your friend may be dramatic.  She may be a hypochondriac.  She may also have a chronic illness where she doesn’t feel well, but they cannot pinpoint what is wrong.  People with autoimmune disorders and/or fibromyalgia spend an average of 3 years and 10 doctors before getting an affirmative diagnosis.  I have fibromyalgia, and it was 5 years and I lost count of the doctors.  I always kidded that I was a hypochondriac, but the truth was that I was scared about what was happening and couldn’t get answers.  I fixated on every little thing looking for a clue.  Having a monster with no name is way scarier than having a diagnosis.

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