I’ve been wanting to write something on hypochondria for a while now, because I think it’s one of the more misunderstood mental illness and is subjected to more jokes/misrepresentations. People have said before that I’m a hypochondriac, while it’s not something that I find to be insulting (as others some times do) I also know it’s not true. The problem with people assuming that I’m a hypochondriac is that it proves the amount of misunderstanding that surrounds hypochondria. What I have in a couple of different chronic illnesses and chronic pain, which means that I’ve often got what seems to be unconnected symptoms thus making people think I think I’ve got a million different illnesses that I don’t actually have.
I’m aware that this can be a very touchy topic because of the misunderstandings and often accusations. I mean no offense by this post, this is just my understanding of how it works. Hypochondria is characterised by a belief that you are sick with an illness and often that illness isn’t actually present, more often then not this belief is directed toward many illnesses but it can be directed toward just the one illness. Often someone who has hypochondria will not believe that they’re not sick, they won’t accept that the test results are negative/will ask that they’re done again. However it’s not as simple as everyone seems to think that it is, hypochondria is a serious mental illness and it comes with many of the same problems seen in other mental illnesses. The main similarity here is a lack of understanding from the basic community and even doctors, very few people can comprehend what it’s like for someone with hypochondria and in order to successfully help the person you need to at least give it your all to try.
Let’s attempt to see what it’s like to be a hypochondriac, this is of course easier said then done especially if you’ve never experienced any mental illness before. Think about a time when you where absolutely sure about something, say an answer on a test or solution to a difficult problem ect, but everyone else is telling you that you are wrong about this. This is similar on a much smaller level to what someone with hypochondria feels, to them every sneeze could be bird flu. The important thing to remember about people with hypochondria is that to them it is a very real possibility that their sneeze is bird flu, it is their own personal reality that they are very sick. The more often that people tell them they’re not sick the more it can cause a lot of hurt and damage to the person, they become frustrated because no one is validating the way they’re feeling. It’s pretty scary to think you’re dieing of some sort of awful illness and it’s even worse if people are dismissing you or labeling you a ‘crazy’.
Obviously medical tests will more often then not come back negative because often people with hypochondria are actually physically healthy (because they’re so scared that they’re sick) but because of the psychological stress associated with feeling sick, medical testing and being unable to find an answer to the illness they continue to feel very tried, irritable, weak and all the other symptoms associated with stress. It is very difficult to accept that you’ve got hypochondria or any other mental illness and it’s important that you support someone you know if they are currently seeing someone in order to help with their hypochondria. However I think the misunderstandings and the use of hypochondria as an insult/bullying tool doesn’t help those who do have it feel like they’re really people, plus at the end of the day someone with hypochondria is sick in a way and they should be treated with the same amount of respect you would treat anyone else who is sick with.
Always remember that to someone with hypochondria the sickness and the danger is real and you need to respect that in order to help, it might not be ‘real’ to you but it’s more then real for them.