How to deal with a friend who is a hypochondriac?

posted 1 week ago in Relationships
Post # 16
Member
1027 posts
Bumble bee

happyjuju :  I’ve worked in medicine for almost 20 years, and I am certainly in no position diagnose anyone, or tell someone they’re “faking” it. Let her physicians determine if she’s imagining things, or if she truly is an interesting case, and her team of providers are searching for answers. She seems to be proactively looking for answers, so she could very well hear one opinion from one doctor, and receive a different opinion from the next. If she starts in with her ailments, just tell her you hope she feels better soon. Regardless, try to be supportive. It’s not advisable you call her out when you’re not 100% certain she’s only looking for attention. Imagine if something were truly wrong, and how badly you’d feel. 

Post # 17
Member
1099 posts
Bumble bee

Anonymous1063 :  exactly.

i am always sick and catch every bug that goes around. I don’t normally talk about it unless someone specifically asks why I missed something. A couple years ago I was diagnosed as having food allergies. Things have been way better and I no longer walk like an 80 year old Woman because I don’t have joint pain. My doctor thought I was nuts when I said every bone in my body hurt all the time. It was the allergies causing it. 

Post # 20
Member
1679 posts
Bumble bee

For some reason my post didn’t go through. 


happyjuju :
  I think the most you can do is talk to her kindly about the fact that she often seems to be concerned about her health, as a big picture conversation, and also bring up that if medical doctors have trouble finding something wrong to not neglect her mental health as well and encourage her to make an appt with a therapist – NOT because she’s ‘faking’ her illness but to get support. 

Like some other people, I’ve had two separate disorders that went undiagnosed for years. The first was a neurological disorder, and after YEARS of it impacting my life and countless doctors, knowing what it was, was a relief. I’m grateful to my mother for continuing to take me to see someone when others in my family figured I was faking for attention. Now I’m currently dealing with menstral issues and am finally seeing a light after being gaslit by everyone I knew about my issues. No one would take me seriously, even when they had no basis to doubt me, and it was hell. 

I had a friend who was constantly ‘sick’ some years ago and it was incredibly annoying and it seemed like she was using it for attention. Now that I think back on it, her symptoms seem in line with celiac disease, but at the time we had no idea and I didn’t take her seriously. It has taught me to not dismiss people so easily.  

Post # 20
Hostess
2251 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: October 2017

happyjuju :  I have been a qualified physician for over a decade so I do appreciate the struggle that some people go through in this regard. 

No. No you don’t appreciate the struggle unless you’ve gone through it yourself. Sorry, but no.

Post # 22
Hostess
2251 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: October 2017

happyjuju :  that’s not really my business to be quite honest, but it’s more than likely that you haven’t because if you had you’d be drawing on that, not your experience treating people as a physician.

In My Humble Opinion with the personal attacks and whatnot you also seem pretty insensitive but thats just me

ETA: this is coming from someone who struggles with a slew of issues, who knows EXACTLY how hard it is to stay on the medications that are supposed to be helping, not hindering, your life. it is a constant struggle, every single day and many people with these types of issues go through the same thing- people who haven’t struggled with that just don’t get it. That’s the way it is. End/

Post # 24
Member
2449 posts
Buzzing bee

happyjuju :  Being a physician, I would hope that you would understand that even if there was nothing at all wrong with your friend, hypochondria aka health anxiety occurs very commonly. It’s in the DSM-5 as illness anxiety disorder. If she was perfectly healthy and just doing this for attention, that can certainly have something to do with loneliness and other undiagnosed mental health problems, and I’m a bit surprised that you don’t seem to consider that aspect of it or sympathize with her on that basis.

I’m not saying that there is nothing wrong with your friend. I have no idea what is going on with her. I’m just saying that **even if she was physically perfectly healthy** there are reasons someone could behave this way that are not fully in their control.

Generally, though, people being misdiagnosed or having undiagnosed health issues is more common than most people realize. I’ve had my own health issues that doctors didn’t believe me about or thought were all in my head. It’s a horrible feeling, not being believed, and I can’t imagine how much worse it would be to be treated as an “exaggerator” by a close friend. Clearly you guys are close or she wouldn’t be sharing all this stuff with you.

Calling her out or making her feel bad by reasoning with her isn’t going to do anything good. I’m puzzled as to how you think that this might help your friend. I can see how you think it could help you if it got her to stop, but I don’t think it would work out this way.

I would suggest having more sympathy toward what she is going through and/or not being your friend’s go-to medical person. At the end of the day, you’re her friend and not her doctor, and you’re not going to fix what’s going on with her. Her doctors can best help her.

Post # 25
Member
39 posts
Newbee
  • Wedding: March 2018

happyjuju :  As a physician, and a person with a brother-in-law with similar behavior, I so identify with you. Thankfully, he can sometimes be talked down with reason, but at the same time, he nearly spent $200K on unnecessary and risky brain surgery after an incidental Chiari malformation diagnosis (that magically resolved on repeat imaging). I haven’t found a perfect solution to his anxiety, but I do find that talking him through his worst case scenarios and how they either don’t make sense or can be properly investigated *sometimes* helps. 

I think it’s hard for us as doctors, because obviously there are difficult diagnoses that get missed, and you wouldn’t want that for someone you care about–but I’m sure you see in your practice people that expose themselves to greater risk, and delay care for people that truly need it, by seeking unnecessary testing.

I wish I could say he has listened to me about taking care of his mental health, in addition to his physical health, but he continues to neglect that aspect of all of this. Sadly, we can only do so much as our friend/family’s support people, and not their actual doctors–plus, as prior posters have mentioned, we don’t want to muddy our roles.

Post # 26
Member
1028 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: October 2017

I have heath anxiety.  It’s absolutely terrifying because my anxiety brings about physical symptoms of whatever disease/disorder i think that i have.  I’ve had chest pains, lump in the throat where i couldn’t breathe, muscle aches all over, dizziness, tingling and numbness in feet/hands.  I’ve gotten it under control with help from a therapist and medication.  I know that  at times I’ve been a pain in the ass for my family/friends.  Try not to get too frustrated with her and realize that she  likely either has something really wrong with her that nobody can figure out or health anxiety.   In both scenarios she’s probably really scared and frustrated.  Definitely step back from the friendship if you feel too drained in dealing with her but don’t call her out to give yourself satisfaction.   That won’t do anything or help the situation.   

Post # 27
Member
2449 posts
Buzzing bee

I just wanted to clarify that I do agree with bluebell83 : that reasoning with your friend from a place of kindness, empathy, understanding, and reassurance could possibly help. In my post, I meant reasoning with her from a place of you wanting to get her to stop would probably not help, and would probably just make you more frustrated.

Post # 28
Member
5509 posts
Bee Keeper
  • Wedding: October 2017

Munchausens doesn’t just randomly pop up, it’s a serious mental illness. My mother’s symptoms date back to her teens. I don’t think I’ve EVER called her out in front of anyone. I’ve tested my sisters on various occasions to check their awareness of her symptoms and I basically just ignore it. I ignore her stories and (probably my favorite) the fake sugar shakes. That’s where she says her sugar is low and her hand violently shakes like she’s having a grand mal. The last time I saw them, she was in the passenger seat of my car and she was violently shaking her left hand (she’s right handed) to make sure that I could see. I just pretend it’s not happening. She also tailors her lies depending on her audience, she knows that she was busted lying about having cancer when I was ten so she NEVER mentioned that cancer again (she lied again a few months ago but she never mentioned the incident that led to a custody hearing when I was ten). She actually told my sister when she was 14 that she shaved her head because she was going to kill herself. Yes, at fourteen.

This has had devastating consequences on our family, and I have massive medical anxiety because of it. I went to the er for a face rash that I don’t even think was there looking back. But what comes with that anxiety is so much shame and embarrassment. Once the panic passes and I realize what has happened, how people must be viewing me in the emergency room, there’s so much shame.

I feel like I can safely say I’ve seen both sides. Someone with a severe mental illness that does it for attention and someone who has massive medical anxiety.

Unless she’s been doing this for years and years, I don’t think it’s munchausens. It could be an anxiety thing, or she could just be reaching out for help, as others have said, maybe she feels like she lost her indentity when she became a parent.

My mother lies. People in her life have dealt with two lies about cancer, faking seizures, saying she has ms and on and on and on, she even lies about being attacked and stabbed and such. But I can safely say that she is severely mentally ill because it’s been going on since before I was born.

I think what could have helped me, is having someone sit me down and say “I’m worried about you, it seems like you have so many worries and anxieties about illnesses, what’s going on? Are you ok? Do you feel like something is going on that they haven’t figured out yet, or maybe you’re having anxiety, thinking something is wrong all the time? Talk to me!”

Post # 29
Member
5509 posts
Bee Keeper
  • Wedding: October 2017

oceangirl40 :  I imagine it would make the friend feel worse, it’s amazing how your brain can convince you that something is seriously wrong and your body reacts to that anxiety physically.

I have mine under control as well but it’s such an awful thing to deal with so I feel you 

Post # 30
Member
205 posts
Helper bee

Please don’t “call her out” or dismiss her feelings. The human body is very complex and not even doctors can cure, treat, or even diagnose some “special cases”. I have a disease that runs in the family, we all have it to varying degrees, unnoticeable to completely disabled. I’m an undetectable one and people believe I’m “fine” because I look “fine” on the outside. Doctors are unable to treat the horribly disabled people in my family, let alone me. 

If she says she can’t come, she can’t come, does the reasoning really matter? Recommending a psychologist to someone who is suffering from a physical ailment  is more salt in the wounds. You can do it, but be prepared that you may hurt her feelings or lose your friendship. 

 

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