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hopscotchy's avatar

Do you believe that "hypochondria" is powerful enough to create real illness and injury?

Asked by hopscotchy (552points) June 28th, 2009

I use the term hypochondria loosely here, but is a person whose mental state is to assume him/herself a “sick” person more prone to actual illness? how can you tell the difference? how would you approach the subject with this person if you are worried they might be creating their own misery?

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7 Answers

seekingwolf's avatar

I don’t think it “causes” illness or makes one more prone to it, but the way that the person obsesses over their body and always think that they are sick is an illness within itself since it disrupts their lives and makes them unable to function.

I know a hypochondriac at my school. I’ve brought it up with her and at first she didn’t take it well (she got defensive) but agreed to seek counsoling. I suggest being gentle with someone like this (don’t say right away that it’s “all in their head”) and just say that you’re worried about them and their wellbeing, and that you think they may have a psychological condition that makes them feel sick a lot. By going in to get this treated, they will have a better life and that’s what you want for them. Then, encourage them to seek professional help.

hungryhungryhortence's avatar

Yes I do. Hypochondriacs stress themselves out and lower their resistance to illnesses. hi mom

SirBailey's avatar

It sounds to me that what you’re actually describing is not hypochondriasis but the Munchausen Syndrome where the individual focuses on a real, existing illness and exaggerates it for attention. Maybe even deliberately makes it worse. You may have heard of “Munchausen by Proxy”, where the individual secretly harms her child or baby (by suffocation, poison, etc.) to get the attention being the parent of a severely sick child will bring.

Just the same, I don’t see how you can tell someone who convinces themselves that they are severely ill that they’re not really that sick and doing it themselves. Let their doctor tell them that. You may want to tell one of her adult loved ones the way you feel instead of the individual. You mean well, but it can backfire.

stardust's avatar

I think if someone is living out of fear and inviting negativity upon themselves, it’s inevitable that they’re going to bring illness upon themselves. I think some people find comfort in being √≠ll’. There’s a pay-off as such attached to this, i.e. getting sympathy, comfort from others. If I was approaching someone about this, I would do it with a certain level of sensitivity, but I wouldn’t tip-toe for too long. You have to stand back at a certain point, when someone isn’t willing to help themsleves. Good luck.

Darwin's avatar

I think you can indeed think yourself ill just as you can speed your recovery through positive thinking. The hypochondriac might not end up suffering whatever disease they most fear, but can end up with something else. This can be made worse by the tendency of a hypochondriac to “coddle” themselves, thus not getting sunshine or exercise or all of the various things that people need to keep their immune systems strong.

The other difficulty is that if your doctor perceives you to be a hypochondriac, then he/she may discount your symptoms, thus letting an illness go on much longer without being checked.

This last happened to a friend of mine who felt unusually tired and run down, and who kept trying to tell her doctor about it over a period of 18 months. Her doctor kept putting her off with nonsense about her being a mom and so on. Finally, she cornered him and demanded he do something. He said he would do some tests to prove she was not ill. He came back a bit later and told her she had stage 4 lymphoma.

OpryLeigh's avatar

I have, on quite a few occassions, worried so much about certain symptoms, pains etc that have had that I have made that pain worse just by thinking about it.

mattbrowne's avatar

Yes, very real. It’s also called the nocebo effect.

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