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Thursday, April 09, 2009 domalskid, Community Member, asks

Q: How can I help my friend who is obsessed with illness??

I have a friend who I believe has hypochondria.  While she doesn't instantly jump to the conclusion that she has cancer, or something else just as deadly, every time she has a little symptom, she DOES talk about it ALL the time,  as well as every medication she takes (as well as EVERY time she takes them: "Oh, I'm taking my meds," "I'm taking my meds now.", "Hmm, where are my meds? I need to take them."), doctor's appointments, the doctors themselves, whatever illnesses she's been diagnosed as having, 99% of the time.  I'm at my wit's end.  I've been very close friends with her for almost 4 years.  And while we have Bipolar in common, which was our initial connection and what we talked about at first, it's like that conversation has never ended, and I feel I know nothing else about my friend beyond her always being "sick."  That's all she talks about, and I've confronted her on several different occasions.  Each time she got extremely defensive and angry.  Well, I wouldn't really call our "talks" a "conversation" as I don't respond to her, I just stay quiet, trying not to reinforce her obsessions.  But I just can't take this anymore.  It's depressing talking about always being sick.  It's stressful to always hear her complaining about some new symptom.  She goes to the doctor at LEAST twice a week.  Every time she has ANYthing go awry with her body, she runs to the doctor, whether her family doctor, a specialist, an urgent care clinic, or the ER.  For example, she had headaches for a few days in a row, so she rushed to the doctor saying she was having migraines and got a new medication, which she wouldn't stop talking about.  She is on 21 different medications, NO exaggeration!  (And one of the main side effects of many of them is headaches!)  And those are only the ones I'm aware of!  Occassionally, she will talk about her dogs, or her recent fight with her mother, but nothing else!  I don't want to discuss meds, doctors, hospitals, being sick, etc. anymore!  And I've told her this, and I remind her, but still, she only gets angry and defensive.  I know she is a good person, she is very giving, humorous, etc., and I love her like a big sister, but I don't know if I can take this friendship anymore unless she can get help for this, and talk about LIFE; there's so much to talk about in life!  SO much!  I want to get to know her!  Behind being "sick" and taking medication and visiting the doctor.  Her entire life is based on being a PATIENT.  That's all she thinks about, talks about, and does.  She has no hobbies, only 2 friends (including me) that she gets together with about once a month, if that.  Like I said, at least 2 doctor's appointments a week!  And she'll talk about the appt.'s days before and days after, and of course, especially RIGHT after the appt.  She will be extremely excited after an appt., talk about the new medication(s) she got, and run to the pharmacy.  Is there any way I can help her?  Open her eyes to her behavior?  I don't know what else to do!  Please help!

 

Thanks!

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Answers (4)
Jerry Kennard, Health Pro
4/11/09 5:03am

You've done very well to stand by your friend for so long. Presumably there are some more positive features that help to sustain your friendship? However, your observations do seem all too familiar to me. The 'career patient' is a negative evaluation of a person but one which points to a cycle of dependence upon medical advice, support, medication, assessment and re-assessment.

 

The first answer to your question rather neatly sums up my own, which is that therapy is needed to break into this pattern of thinking and behavior. It may be that the doctor has already suggested this and it has been rejected. If this is the case it's a shame because cognitive therapy (the one I believe your friend would benefit from) is very effective. It does mean that the doctor needs to work with the psychologist and not undermine the efforts by reinforcing the visits and handing out medication - but that's a different issue.

 

It's great that you support your friend like this and I can see that your frustration is showing due to the repetitive nature of what's going on. The fact you both have bipolar is something that unites you, but I think if your friend is willing to try psychological therapy for this specific issue, it may cement your friendship even more.

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psychoward1, Community Member
4/ 9/09 8:53pm

Maybe you could speak to your friend about getting into some sort of therapy. Though it might give her something else to add to the list.

 

Its just a thought.

 

Pat

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Anonymous Health User, Community Member
6/22/10 2:16am

Hi, I also happen to have a friend who is exactly like your friend. She's one of my best friends and she also happens to be my neighbor. Yeah I know, it sucks but I love her. Makes me feel like a masochist. Ofcourse I'm being sarcastic, I mean who wants a friend who never talks about herself and always ends talking about different illneses. For example my friend's favorite disease topic is STD (sexual transmited disease), after she left her boyfriend and takes a test for STD, she gets the results and what do you know they are negative. But she still insists that she has an illness and that she should get tested again. Everytime she asks me if she should get tested again I always tell her no, but it backfires and here we go again with the same routine. She ends asking the same question again, it drives me through a wall, and its worse than giving birth like the Murphy Law, it feels like an upsidedown pineapple coming out from the vagina. Anyway she also gets help from a psychiatrist twice a week. By the way is your friend my friend's twin, cause it seems that way. If I were you, even though you guys sometimes end up fighting, she is still your friend, you must keep supporting her or him because nowone else will do it for them. After all she gets appointments twice a week, the pills don't take effect, its bad for her body to take so many pills, it can result to an overdose by subscription meds. This has happened and its happens everyday. So you must persevere, for this type of person its hard to change their way of dealing with life. Try again and help your friend free herself from herself.

 

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gone batty, Community Member
10/23/12 2:41pm

My sister in law had colon cancer over a decade ago. she has since been cancer free going on 9 or 10 years. she was in a medically induced coma a little over a year due to renal failure caused by overdose of pain pills. up until this point she had been telling everyone that she was going to die of cancer and there was nothing that could be done to save her....that it was just a matter of time. In fact, my brother, her husband had no clue of anything different as he trusted his wife completely and never thought she would lie about something..especially something like that. He almost let her die in the hospital because he seen no reason to have her kidneys jump started through dialysis just to have her suffering from this cancer she claimed she had. that is when the doctors finaly informed him that my sister n law was completely cancer free and had been for the decade.

 

Now everytime I see her, she has to talk about her body just expiring and giving out and how she doesnt have much time left....she even uses that as a driving guilt point to get what she wants!!!!

 

it drives me crazy and I completely lost it the other day when she sent random texts to my phone all day about this ignorance and i asked her why she wanted to always be dying.

she didnt give me an answer but she apologized for being mean.....

 

 

i'm at my witts end with her, what can  i do to convince her she's crazy and needs to seek therapy?????

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By domalskid, Community Member— Last Modified: 10/23/12, First Published: 04/09/09