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Hypochondriacs

missypea

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I gal I work with suffers from hypochondria. I try to be supportive of her but there are times I've broken down in hysterical laughter with tears streaming down my face. Other times I'm short with her but I've come to grips with the fact that dealing with her puts a significant drain on my energy and patience.

I like her a lot. When she's not dying she's a fun and caring person but she's dying at least twice a week and drives to the ED a few times a month.

Headache = Stroke
Heartburn = Heart attack
Gas Pain = Cancer

When she's dying she's consumed with the fear of it. She panics and the terror is easy to read in her face. I've done deep breathing with her, begged her to see a psychiatrist, listened to her, counseled her. I don't know what to do for this poor girl.

I tell her to go to the doctor and get a full check up so that she'll *know* she's not dying. She tells me:
She can't go to the doctor because they'll tell her that she is dying and that will be worse........AND the exam is really only good for about six months because then the cancer can start growing and she'll be back where she started.

I ask her to stop brainwashing herself with negative stories and start telling herself stories where she's successful.
I gave her breathing exercises to do and practiced them with her.
I advised her countless times to seek counseling and medication.

I've gotten fed up with it all and then felt horrible about it. I gotta live with myself and I can't push someone away who's in obvious distress but on the other hand, all of my resources can't be drained away by one person and sometimes it feels like that's happening.

I'm not sure what to do. I've been in this pickle for almost two years and she's not getting better or seeking help. She's actually getting worse. One of the friends on her pool team did have a heart attack and she came to work later that week and showed me a nitro pill that she got from him.

O.M.G.

I came unglued and insisted that she throw it away
She said it made her feel better to have it in her purse.........just in case.

She just wanted that pill in her purse to use as a security blanket. I said, "Sweetie, what happens if you faint because it's hot outside and someone digs in your purse and puts the nitro pill in your mouth because they think they're helping you?
She told me a few days later that she lost the pill. I doubt that's true but that's her story.

Here's the other thing: She's terrified of taking a pill of any kind. She was congested last week (because the cottonwoods are letting loose right now) and she was convinced it was stroke/cancer related. I finally convinced her to take a Tylenol Congestion pill, just one. Once her congestion symptoms started to dissipate, she started coming down from the mountain of fear.

Oh yeah, that's the other thing. We work in a hospital and she said the only time she feels really safe is when she's at work. Sometimes late at night when she thinks she's dying she gets in her car and drives to the ED. She said by the time she gets there she feels so much better that she doesn't have to go inside. Just being there is enough to give her the security of well being that she seeks.

So..........
Whether or not she seeks counseling, medication, or any other proactive treatment is out of my control.
I care about her. I want her to have the tools she needs to overcome this. I can't shut her down.
I care about me. I want to give her want she needs, which appears to be my attention, but I'm having some conflicts with my own resources and what I have left after I speak with her.

I don't know if what I'm feeling is cumulative from dealing with this for two years or if it's because of the pressures at work over the last month. It's probably the added recent pressures.
I just feel drained.

How do you help someone like that?

:(
 

jujuman13

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I gal I work with suffers from hypochondria. I try to be supportive of her but there are times I've broken down in hysterical laughter with tears streaming down my face. Other times I'm short with her but I've come to grips with the fact that dealing with her puts a significant drain on my energy and patience.

I like her a lot. When she's not dying she's a fun and caring person but she's dying at least twice a week and drives to the ED a few times a month.

Headache = Stroke
Heartburn = Heart attack
Gas Pain = Cancer

When she's dying she's consumed with the fear of it. She panics and the terror is easy to read in her face. I've done deep breathing with her, begged her to see a psychiatrist, listened to her, counseled her. I don't know what to do for this poor girl.

I tell her to go to the doctor and get a full check up so that she'll *know* she's not dying. She tells me:
She can't go to the doctor because they'll tell her that she is dying and that will be worse........AND the exam is really only good for about six months because then the cancer can start growing and she'll be back where she started.

I ask her to stop brainwashing herself with negative stories and start telling herself stories where she's successful.
I gave her breathing exercises to do and practiced them with her.
I advised her countless times to seek counseling and medication.

I've gotten fed up with it all and then felt horrible about it. I gotta live with myself and I can't push someone away who's in obvious distress but on the other hand, all of my resources can't be drained away by one person and sometimes it feels like that's happening.

I'm not sure what to do. I've been in this pickle for almost two years and she's not getting better or seeking help. She's actually getting worse. One of the friends on her pool team did have a heart attack and she came to work later that week and showed me a nitro pill that she got from him.

O.M.G.

I came unglued and insisted that she throw it away
She said it made her feel better to have it in her purse.........just in case.

She just wanted that pill in her purse to use as a security blanket. I said, "Sweetie, what happens if you faint because it's hot outside and someone digs in your purse and puts the nitro pill in your mouth because they think they're helping you?
She told me a few days later that she lost the pill. I doubt that's true but that's her story.

Here's the other thing: She's terrified of taking a pill of any kind. She was congested last week (because the cottonwoods are letting loose right now) and she was convinced it was stroke/cancer related. I finally convinced her to take a Tylenol Congestion pill, just one. Once her congestion symptoms started to dissipate, she started coming down from the mountain of fear.

Oh yeah, that's the other thing. We work in a hospital and she said the only time she feels really safe is when she's at work. Sometimes late at night when she thinks she's dying she gets in her car and drives to the ED. She said by the time she gets there she feels so much better that she doesn't have to go inside. Just being there is enough to give her the security of well being that she seeks.

So..........
Whether or not she seeks counseling, medication, or any other proactive treatment is out of my control.
I care about her. I want her to have the tools she needs to overcome this. I can't shut her down.
I care about me. I want to give her want she needs, which appears to be my attention, but I'm having some conflicts with my own resources and what I have left after I speak with her.

I don't know if what I'm feeling is cumulative from dealing with this for two years or if it's because of the pressures at work over the last month. It's probably the added recent pressures.
I just feel drained.

How do you help someone like that?

:(
The short answer is that unless you yourself are a trained professional capable of dealing with this type of neurosis, nothing you say, advise, or even do, will help your friend other than for the immediate moment.

She should really seek Psychiatric help.
 
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missypea

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The short answer is that unless you yourself are a trained professional capable of dealing with this type of neurosis, nothing you say, advise, or even do, will help your friend other than for the immediate moment.

She should really seek Psychiatric help.


I've been trying to get her to do that for two years.....without success. Got any ideas on how to convince her?
 

missypea

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My OP is a really glaring example of: tl;dr

But I feel better just having putting it down in words.

If anyone does have any advice on how to persuade this gal into seeking help, I'm listening.
 

jujuman13

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Rather than approaching the problem from her point of view as for example expecting her to go and see someone with the intention of getting help for herself.
You might try to interest a Psychiatrist in her case.
 

1069

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I gal I work with suffers from hypochondria. I try to be supportive of her but there are times I've broken down in hysterical laughter with tears streaming down my face. Other times I'm short with her but I've come to grips with the fact that dealing with her puts a significant drain on my energy and patience.

I like her a lot. When she's not dying she's a fun and caring person but she's dying at least twice a week and drives to the ED a few times a month.

Headache = Stroke
Heartburn = Heart attack
Gas Pain = Cancer

When she's dying she's consumed with the fear of it. She panics and the terror is easy to read in her face. I've done deep breathing with her, begged her to see a psychiatrist, listened to her, counseled her. I don't know what to do for this poor girl.

I tell her to go to the doctor and get a full check up so that she'll *know* she's not dying. She tells me:
She can't go to the doctor because they'll tell her that she is dying and that will be worse........AND the exam is really only good for about six months because then the cancer can start growing and she'll be back where she started.

I ask her to stop brainwashing herself with negative stories and start telling herself stories where she's successful.
I gave her breathing exercises to do and practiced them with her.
I advised her countless times to seek counseling and medication.

I've gotten fed up with it all and then felt horrible about it. I gotta live with myself and I can't push someone away who's in obvious distress but on the other hand, all of my resources can't be drained away by one person and sometimes it feels like that's happening.

I'm not sure what to do. I've been in this pickle for almost two years and she's not getting better or seeking help. She's actually getting worse. One of the friends on her pool team did have a heart attack and she came to work later that week and showed me a nitro pill that she got from him.

O.M.G.

I came unglued and insisted that she throw it away
She said it made her feel better to have it in her purse.........just in case.

She just wanted that pill in her purse to use as a security blanket. I said, "Sweetie, what happens if you faint because it's hot outside and someone digs in your purse and puts the nitro pill in your mouth because they think they're helping you?
She told me a few days later that she lost the pill. I doubt that's true but that's her story.

Here's the other thing: She's terrified of taking a pill of any kind. She was congested last week (because the cottonwoods are letting loose right now) and she was convinced it was stroke/cancer related. I finally convinced her to take a Tylenol Congestion pill, just one. Once her congestion symptoms started to dissipate, she started coming down from the mountain of fear.

Oh yeah, that's the other thing. We work in a hospital and she said the only time she feels really safe is when she's at work. Sometimes late at night when she thinks she's dying she gets in her car and drives to the ED. She said by the time she gets there she feels so much better that she doesn't have to go inside. Just being there is enough to give her the security of well being that she seeks.

So..........
Whether or not she seeks counseling, medication, or any other proactive treatment is out of my control.
I care about her. I want her to have the tools she needs to overcome this. I can't shut her down.
I care about me. I want to give her want she needs, which appears to be my attention, but I'm having some conflicts with my own resources and what I have left after I speak with her.

I don't know if what I'm feeling is cumulative from dealing with this for two years or if it's because of the pressures at work over the last month. It's probably the added recent pressures.
I just feel drained.

How do you help someone like that?

:(

My dad also suffers from GAD and hypochondria (I do too, but not as bad).
It can be really debilitating. It can steal all the pleasure from one's life.
And of course, it's frustrating for others who have to listen to it. There's really nothing you can say to reassure someone in the grip of hypochondria. Nothing gets through.

My dad says getting diagnosed with diabetes a few years ago has helped him immeasurably.
He now realizes that a lot of the physical symptoms- the general feeling of unwellness and unease- that he suffered from for years before that was actually caused by the diabetes, which went undiagnosed for a long time and was quite serious by the time he actually went to the doctor.
I can tell that his anxiety is much improved and that he's enjoying his life more.

Maybe the only thing that will really help your friend is actually getting a real disease, a real diagnosis.
Hopefully when she does, it won't be anything fatal.

I think the best thing you can do is tell your coworker, "It's clear to me that you're suffering from hypochondria. I can tell you really are suffering, and I can empathize with that. But unlike you, I don't believe your suffering has a physical cause. I wish I could help you, but there isn't any way I can. I don't have any magic words that can relieve your pain. Because I care, I find this frustrating. I'm sorry, but I think that while we're at work, we should do our best to focus on working, no matter what else is going on in our lives."

I think that's the kindest thing you can do for her.
Listening sympathetically to a daily litany of her symptoms and self-diagnoses is doing nothing but enabling her and feeding her anxiety. Trying to comfort her with logic and reason will not work.
She needs to seek help for her actual problem, which is psychological and chemical, and you're right: she's the only one who can make the choice to do that.
The only way I know of that you can help at all is to put the brakes on her using you as a sounding board for her terror and anxiety.
Maybe when everybody in her life shuts her off and refuses to listen or offer sympathy for her myriad imaginary "illnesses", she will finally seek help.
 
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missypea

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My dad also suffers from GAD and hypochondria (I do too, but not as bad).
It can be really debilitating. It can steal all the pleasure from one's life.
And of course, it's frustrating for others who have to listen to it. There's really nothing you can say to reassure someone in the grip of hypochondria. Nothing gets through.
I tell her she spends so much time worrying about dying that she doesn't live.....you're right, nothing gets through.

My dad says getting diagnosed with diabetes a few years ago has helped him immeasurably.
He now realizes that a lot of the physical symptoms- the general feeling of unwellness and unease- that he suffered from for years before that was actually caused by the diabetes, which went undiagnosed for a long time and was quite serious by the time he actually went to the doctor.
I can tell that his anxiety is much improved and that he's enjoying his life more.

Maybe the only thing that will really help your friend is actually getting a real disease, a real diagnosis.
Hopefully when she does, it won't be anything fatal.
I've often felt that if she did have "something" it would give her some freedom of worrying about things she doesn't have. That's so tragic though. I don't want her to be physically ill in order to become mentally balanced.

I think the best thing you can do is tell your coworker, "It's clear to me that you're suffering from hypochondria. I can tell you really are suffering, and I can empathize with that. But unlike you, I don't believe your suffering has a physical cause. I wish I could help you, but there isn't any way I can. I don't have any magic words that can relieve your pain. Because I care, I find this frustrating. I'm sorry, but I think that while we're at work, we should do our best to focus on working, no matter what else is going on in our lives."
That's a good point. It may come to that. I have actually said everything you suggested, except the last sentence. Perhaps that's where this is headed.

I think that's the kindest thing you can do for her.
Listening sympathetically to a daily litany of her symptoms and self-diagnoses is doing nothing but enabling her and feeding her anxiety. Trying to comfort her with logic and reason will not work.
She needs to seek help for her actual problem, which is psychological and chemical, and you're right: she's the only one who can make the choice to do that.
The only way I know of that you can help at all is to put the brakes on her using you as a sounding board for her terror and anxiety.
Maybe when everybody in her life shuts her off and refuses to listen or offer sympathy for her myriad imaginary "illnesses", she will finally seek help.
I don't think I listen to her self diagnosis with sympathetically, I let her see my frustration with it but I have been sympathetic to her illness (hypochondria).

I don't think I'm giving her exactly what she's looking for because it's not really sympathy she receives but I know I am giving her something that she's seeking.

It may be time to stop filling that need. Perhaps that will move her to seek professional help.
 

missypea

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Rather than approaching the problem from her point of view as for example expecting her to go and see someone with the intention of getting help for herself.
You might try to interest a Psychiatrist in her case.
I think that's a good idea but I don't know if it's a possibility. I don't think a psychiatrist would come to her. It may be viewed as ambulance chasing or something.
 

Marilyn Monroe

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I've been trying to get her to do that for two years.....without success. Got any ideas on how to convince her?
Tell her you'll go with her to the psychiatrist, and be prepared to do it. Start keeping a list of her ailments and complaints. This could come in handy if you have to accompany her to the psychiatrist.

I think people like this are looking for attention. They aren't getting it from the people they should be getting it from, so they turn to the next best substitute. Could be her family isn't as patient with her as you are.

I think she may have had a hard life, or something traumatic happened when she was a child.

Whatever, you are a good friend, and she's very fortunate to have run into you!:)
 

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Imo, you can't help people like that. She's probably got some really significant psyche/anxiety issues, and no amount of support that other people give her will resolve the issue. As far as your role, if you really like her, then accept her as she is. You don't have to feel obligated to play into her drama, but it's probably one of the things that gives meaning to her life.
 

Orion

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The sad thing is that the stress from hypochondriac fears can manifest real illness in the long term.
 
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