Post # 1
Has anyone dealt with this? I have a good friend who always seems to be “sick” and is always talking about her perceived medical problems. For example she went to the hospital on the weekend and sent us a group text saying she “probably has renal stones” etc etc and only upon asking her later I found out that she didn’t. Which she then quickly followed up with “but now I have XYZ” almost like the original plot fell through and so another unrelated medical condition pops up. This is made worse by the fact I’m medical so I can tell when her stories are fake or make no sense, but I’ve never called her out on it in front of people or ever at all actually.
She does this with increasing frequency and I’m really starting to feel like I want to say something. It’s gotten worse since she has been at home due to small babies in recent years and also her husband is often away for work so part of me wonders if it just stems from loneliness? I don’t know. But what would I even say? Do I even say anything? Do I just ignore it?
Post # 2
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 # 3
hedgehog93 : Hmm yes you’re right. Like you sound quite reasonable and it’s like the app reassures you. I’m not even sure she’s looking for reassurance. Its not so much that she assumes the worst when she has symptoms, it seems more like when she has something minor she will go to hospital. Then she wants lots of tests and investigations. She also seems generally overly preoccupied with her health all the time. Therefore I don’t think the app would help her because her situation seems to be emotionally driven? I guess I could stop responding and giving validation. Thanks for the reply!
Post # 4
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Post # 15
Thanks for the replies. I feel like I’ve inadvertently been encouraging it by taking with her about it so much. Not only does she not listen to me she doesn’t listen to many of the doctors she has gone to nor does she actually try any of the tablets or things prescribed. I think I will withdraw and stop giving reinforcement about it. xo