difficult child = hypochondriac

Discussion in 'The Watercooler' started by mstang67chic, Apr 6, 2008.

  1. mstang67chic

    mstang67chic Going Green

    I swear, this boy makes such a big deal out of every scratch, bump and bruise. He did something to his toe today and you'd think it was ready to fall off by the way he's going on about it. I looked at it, and yes, it's a bit red, But no bruising, no discoloration (black), nothing to indicate anything more than a sore toe. He was going on and on about it so I suggested that he go lay down. Nope, couldn't do that. He had to go outside to be around husband and the neighbors instead. That in itself tells me that he's just bucking for attention/sympathy. NOW he's insisting that he'll need his crutches tomorrow at school.

    He does this kind of thing all the time and then wonders why we don't believe him half the time.
  2. Hound dog

    Hound dog Nana's are Beautiful

    And then they grow up and become my husband. :wildone:

    I swear I spend most of my time ignoring husband's imaginary symptoms/injuries. God help him if he ever really did have something wrong, by the time I believed it he'd probably be dead.

    mother in law tries to cushion it by telling me about his grandfather that was exactly the same way, as was an aunt. Somehow thinking it's genetic doesn't quite make me feel better. lol

  3. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    There is a faint chance it really is very painful, without any obvious outer signs. This can be the case if he's got a staph infection deep in the tissues. If he has, then it will start to look angry and red in a couple of days, might even be producing pus.

    Treatment options for this, as well as to deal with the hypochondriac - you need to soak the toe in hot salty water, as hot as he can stand it, every three hours. If you can do three consecutive soakings three hours apart, over two to three consecutive days, the body will deal with the rest of the infection.

    Staph can be excruciatingly painful but you can't see a thing when it's just getting started. I remember giving easy child a hard time when she complained of a really sore finger, and we couldn't see a thing. A few days later the boil was obvious and then it turned to an open sore, with the skin sloughing off at a scary rate. It turned out to be a nasty mix of staph & strep, working anaerobically (unusual, and nasty). The staph comes from the skin, we all have it but it's fairly harmless until it burrows into the tissues through a minute crack. The strep comes from a sore throat somewhere in the family. Antibiotics are generally used once it's really obvious, but fingers and toes are hard to treat because they are right out on the edge of the body, the drug has to get into the peripheral circulation in sufficient quantity to do a good job. Again, the hot water treatment helps here because it dilates blood vessels which helps any antibiotics get to where they're needed and also helps the body clear the rubbish away.

    So - he could be panicking over nothing. Or it could be the start of something big. Either way - if he has to soak his foot every three hours, it's the price he pays for whining about it.

    And no, there is no need to use crutches. In fact, he needs to keep that foot working and flexing, to help his body clear out the rubbish.

    If he really does develop a boil, keep an eye on his temperature from about a day after the boil becomes obvious. A casual hand on his cheek should be enough, no need to validate his panic by getting out the thermometer.

    We'll have to do this sort of thing more and more, as antibiotic resistance creeps in. We live in a golden age of antibiotic treatment, an age which may soon come to an end.

    difficult child IS being a panic merchant, but again, natural consequences can deal with that. if he has a sore toe then he can't go running, can't go bike riding, can't visit his friends and has to stick his foot in a scaldingly hot bucket every three hours, for up to half an hour - annoying, a drag, but you only get out of it if you say your toe wasn't really hurting to begin with. once the alarm is sounded - you have to put up with the treatment. Stop too soon and it can all come back.

    The three hour thing - it's an INTERVAL of three hours. So if you begin a soak at 3 pm and finish at 3.30 pm, then you don't have to do it again until 6.30 pm. You can be as late as an hour with no problem. But no later or it has to be considered starting over. There are sound microbiological reasons for this working brilliantly.

  4. meowbunny

    meowbunny New Member

    My daughter is somewhat like that. Once she is reassured that her toe won't fall off, that a sneeze doesn't mean she'll get pneumonia, that it's okay to be tired, she's fine. But until she gets sufficient reassurance (usually finding something in a book or on the net showing her precisely what will cause a loss of toe or nail, pneumonia symptoms, etc.), she quits worrying about it. However, until she is reassured and satisfied mom knows what she's talking about, she is truly concerned. She leaves the attention seeking to her co-workers cause it doesn't work too well around the house.
  5. Star*

    Star* call 911........call 911

    When I graduated HS I met a woman and we became friends. She was a true hyop. I at the time had no idea what that meant. I would go to her house for dinner, got to know her husband and her son. I even babysat for them a few times. He was a great little kid. LIttle did I know that years later I would marry her husbands cousin. It's a friendship I regret.

    I thought she was just the strongest person I knew. Always sick, but always doing her daily chores. Then one evening I stopped over as usual and her husband told me that he thought she was a hypochondriac. I thought he was such an insensitive boob. I left, after seeing her and saying I was so sorry she was sick. She told me she thought she had MS. Then a week later she has Lou Gherigs Disease, then it was something else - and I started to believe her hubby was correct. This woman didn't just get a cold or flu - she was acting or had convinced herself that she was deathly and gravely ill.

    I came to see her one day - and came in as usual - we never knock - I got in & yelled up to her - no answer so I worried she was sick for real. As I got to the room I saw her reading a medical diagnoses book - huge. And she was kicking a bunch more under her bed. I pulled them out - confronted her with it - then her hubby came home while we were talking and he saw all the medical books which she said she needed because she was sick and they couldn't afford the doctor. Her hubby threw 5 one hundred dollar bills on the bed and said TOMORROW - you get a complete physical, blood work, check you for worms, jungle rot - inside and out!!!!! Or I'm leaving.

    He went with her to the doctors - and we waited for the results to come back to see if she really did have MS or LG or something worse. She was confidant he was going to "get his come-uppance, or he'd see!"

    The test results came back a couple weeks later - and he went with her to the doctors office. The husband had told the dr. on the qt that his wife was faking it - so please run the tests twice if there was any doubt. And tell her the tests were run twice. The doctor said he couldn't do that - but there was NOTHING wrong - she was the picture of health and wrote out a prescription for her to see a psychologist and get some therapy, and for him to get anger management classes and if they cared about their marriage - marriage counseling.

    At my wedding a few years later - she was my Matron of Honor. In the dressing room - she was not geting enough attention - and faked a fainting spell - everyone ran to help her - except my Mother. My mother bent down and whispered something in her ear - -and I don't know what it was - but I am my mother's daughter - and that girl got up off that sittee, finished her makeup and never said a word bad....the rest of the night.

    Her husband had numerous affairs because she claimed she 'couldn't perform' and a few months later - they divorced and he won custody of their little boy based on severe mental cruelty to both husband and son.

    That's what I know about being around a hypochondriac. She was sure it was real. In her brain she WAS sick. But she refused counseling. She's (to the best of my knowledge) remarried to a man that likes to "take care" of the sick girl. Amazing.
  6. WhymeMom?

    WhymeMom? No real answers to life..

    Okay Star......gotta know what your Mom told your friend to get her out of a "dead faint".......
  7. Star*

    Star* call 911........call 911

    I never asked - but belive me when I say - I have a pocket knife compared to her sword of a tongue.

    She doesn't say much but when she does - she means business and you know it - wish I would have inherited that from her.

  8. Hound dog

    Hound dog Nana's are Beautiful


    You are right. husband truely believes he is ill. No one can convince him otherwise.

    I've watched severe back "problems" disappear thru ignoring it. Major "issues" with esophogeal reflux with supposed severe scarring vanish thru ignoring. Trust me you don't want to know his "symptoms" with this, but he did fool the doctor for quite and expensive while before I was able to give doctor the heads up.

    We've went thru so many I can't even remember them all.

    Makes me feel bad because I'm a caretaker type as we all know. I like to make people feel better. (one reason I'm going for the RN) But I learned early in the marriage that if I did even the smallest of kind acts for husband when he is "ill" that it would be never ending and only get far worse.

    And I really do worry because his family is very prone to heart attacks. He's very over weight, has high BiPolar (BP), and is way over due for his. I'm scared I'll not listen when he really does need to go to the ER.:dissapointed:
  9. Star*

    Star* call 911........call 911

    Forgot to ask Mustang -

    Do you suppose the "set up" for the crutches at school thing was for getting out of class early ? Feeling more special? Getting attention? I would have emailed his teacher and asked that he be allowed LAST out of the room - so there was no one in the hall after everyone had moved and gotten to class as opposed to FIRST out the door so no one was in the hall.
  10. mstang67chic

    mstang67chic Going Green

    He could have been thinking all sorts of things with the crutches. However....he got up this morning with nary a limp.

    Marg, as far as the red on his toe, it was just the kind of red you get if you hit it on something or drop something on it. Any major injuries (or ones that require treatment) of his are very obvious. I'm not sure if he truly THINKS it's worse than it is, if he simply wants the sympathy and attention or a little of both. Either way though, he and the school nurse are very well acquainted. She's actually to the point that when she calls me because he says he's sick that she already knows what my answer will be. She only calls most of the time because she has to. I just make sure there is Tylenol and Pepto there and it pretty much covers anything he comes up with.

    Course there was that time a couple of weeks ago that he claimed he was sick because he had diarhea. He did but i'm pretty sure it had more to do with all the fudge and **** he ate at school than with any illness. But of course he doesn't make that connection! LOL

    Star...thanks! I checked out the avatars and of the ones still not taken, that was the funniest one.
  11. KTMom91

    KTMom91 Well-Known Member

    Miss KT was quite accomplished at this in elementary school. Around fourth grade, I'd had more than enough, so after a trying morning of tummy cramps, I wrote this excuse..."Please excuse Miss KT's tardiness this morning. She was suffering from a bad case of hypochondria" and sent her to school. She looked up "that big word that starts with H", thinking I'd said something bad, but was not happy when her teacher found the excuse funny.
  12. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    Mstang, if it was a staph infection just beginning, by now it would be even more painful and much redder, probably already showing signs of pus formation. I threw that in just in case, and because the treatment for it is practical and not pleasant if there really is no problem; but the treatment also won't do any harm (unlike taking antibiotics when they're not really needed). I'm glad he hasn't got it; sorry if he's still trying to play on it.

    Star, that neighbour of yours sounds more like a Munchhausen's case. A hypochondriac is generally a fairly normal person who is AFRAID they are ill; they're always worrying, "It could be this; it could be that." But they can be reassured, they usually will jump at the chance to see the doctor, because this is a genuine belief. This isn't primarily attention-seeking behaviour, it's genuine concern for their health.

    A Munchhausen's case, on the other hand, wants EVERYONE ELSE to think they are ill, and they do it for attention. Generally they know, at some level, that they're not sick. But they will go to sometimes extreme lengths to try to convince other people that there is something serious wrong with them. They also can get very aggressive and angry with the medical profession for failing to diagnose what is wrong; doctors are "incompetent, uncaring" and any attempt by a doctor to say that there is nothing wrong and they should see a psychiatrist - Munchhausen's patients will get extremely angry and almost always refuse psychiatric help.
    A classic finding in Munchhausen's is lack of continuity of care. They keep changing doctors because they keep getting found out. Once a doctor gets suspicious, the patient moves on. Eventually the patient has to lie, more and more, about their identity, their history, everything, in order to maintain the lie. And they know it's a lie.

    A hypochondriac will read medical textbooks in order to examine the symptoms they believe they have. A Munchhausen's case will read medical textbooks more secretly, in order to get their story straight and to be able to manufacture the symptoms of the disease they have chosen to 'have'.

    A hypochondriac has no reason to hide anything. A Munchhausen's patient has to hide their knowledge or have a way of explaining it, because knowing they're being dishonest about it, they are generally paranoid about people getting suspicious.

    When I first left home at 17 to go to uni, I could have been described as a hypochondriac. I was anxious about every little symptom, often going to the doctor (free clinic) for the slightest little thing. I felt a fraud, especially as I was leaving, always embarrassed to find the symptoms which had been worrying me always seemed to disappear by the time the doctor was ready to see me. Looking back, my symptoms could well have been connected to a combination of my own extreme naievety about life and the world, plus living on my own meant my diet wasn't as good as it should have been and I wasn't looking after myself properly. I later became seriously ill which gave me a benchmark by which to measure all future feelings of not being well. What helped me most was understanding of my anxiety and being gently reassured that my symptoms had been carefully considered and I was really OK.

    I have also had a lot to do with a woman who was Munchhausen's. Another woman I knew very well over quite a number of years was, I believe, likely to have been Munchhausen's by proxy. But I won't talk abut her, that was too tragic.

    The woman who was Munchhausen's, I'll call her Marie, I first encountered through my volunteer work on a telephone counselling and information service. Initially, I was the only person on the service, so I got Marie ringing me up A LOT. I also met her many times at various seminars run by the organisation.

    Marie's tone of voice could at times whine, wheedle, cajole and then suddenly turn vicious. Unpredictable and increasingly, scary.

    One day she complained to me that she had lost the subsidised taxi service for people with mobility problems. I offered to support her appeal by writing a letter for her (or rather, she bullied me until I agreed).
    "So, for this letter, it will help if you tell me exactly what your diagnosis is."
    Marie began a long list which included diabetes, epilepsy, rheumatoid arthritis, food sensitivities, multiple allergies, heart problems and chronic fatigue syndrome. I was meticulous about this list and read it back to her for confirmation.
    I sent the letter off, she rang me a week later to thank me, she had got the subsidised taxi service reinstated.

    She had been complaining about the retirement home she was living in (despite still being too young). They were refusing to give her the vitamin injections prescribed by her doctor. She told me the name of her doctor, it had changed again. I actually dropped in to visit her one day while I was in the area; she was out so I talked to the matron of the place hoping to plead Marie's case to her, ask for more compassion for Marie. In her turn the matron described a few incidents to me, such as the time (while the taxi service was unavailable to her) Marie asked to be driven to the railway station. Marie was using two quad sticks for walking. The matron had to carefully ease Marie down onto the seat, Marie groaning in pain all the time, stack the quad sticks on the spare seat and then drive gently to the station. At the station Marie's train was already in - she didn't wait to be helped out but almost jumped out of the car, grabbing her quad sticks and RAN for the train, quad sticks under her arm! The matron said, "I don't like being taken advantage of."

    Marie rang me later that afternoon, abusive. "How dare you spy on me? How dare you come round looking for me? I was at the doctor's, I'll have you know, I was NOT out somewhere partying, I was SICK! What were you hoping to prove?"
    I placated her, told her I had wanted to visit to ask if she wanted a lift to the next seminar. Marie's mood changed instantly, to sweet as pie.

    This was the pattern. I was exhausted and began screening my calls. One day a few months later she rang and was telling me, "My doctor told me yesterday, that I have diabetes."
    A flicker of memory. While she talked I checked my notes, found the letter she had almost dictated to me which listed her (then) diagnoses. "Marie, you told me three months ago that you already had diabetes."

    Whoops. She screamed at me. "NO, I NEVER! Why would I say such a thing when I didn't have it? I only got diagnosed yesterday!"

    I didn't say any more, there was no point. She was adamant that she had never said that she had diabetes.

    That was when I did some digging and learned about Munchhausen's. The more I learned, the more I used her regular calls to me to probe. It was fascinating. In all the time she had talked to (at) me, she had never said a word about her past. Nothing about what sort of job she used to do, what she had studied, where she had lived, if she had ever married or had kids - nothing. Her past did not exist. And if I tried to ask about her medical history she would get vague, or she would find ways to change the subject.
    One hallmark of a serious long-term Munchhausen's is a history of numerous past abdominal exploratory surgeries. Of course she wasn't going to tell me, so one day when she was complaining of abdominal pain I said to her, "You know Marie - you could have adhesions."
    I could hear her ears prick up. "What are adhesions?"
    "It's scar tissue, where bits of muscle and other things get stuck together as scar tissue develops, usually after abdominal surgery. But you would have to have had abdominal surgery to get adhesions."
    I had done it. She rattled off a long list of abdominal surgeries, including a lot of exploratory laparotomies. No time frame, but a long list.

    Another time she was asking me about my health. Now, she NEVER wanted to know about other people so I was curious. She pumped me for exact detail of my symptoms. How did it feel? How did the pain first start? How could I describe it?

    I told her. I suspected what she was up to but I told her anyway. I also had told her that my constellation of symptoms plus the conditions which had triggered it all was considered very rare. Who knows? That may have been what made her curious.

    A week later I was giving her a lift to a seminar. A neighbour of mine, male, came too. She was all over him like a rash, all night. Looking back I think she thought he and I were "an item" (no way!). But also, as we drove, she wouldn't stop talking. I was tired and trying to cope with city traffic, almost crashing the car as her voice changed from wheedle to tirade mid-sentence. Then I almost crashed the car again, as she began to describe her newest symptoms. Word for word, it was my description of my nerve pain, the description she had pumped me for a week earlier!

    Utterly bizarre.

    At every stop, when Marie had to get out of my car or back in, she needed my neighbour to carefully lift her into her seat or carefully lift her out. She had to be helped with her seat belt. She was also discussing the specialist which she and I both shared - "A lovely man. Did you know, the last time I saw him, he gave me a big hug and told me I was his favourite patient!" she confided. I had months earlier heard the same thing, and learned that if I hinted to any friendship with our specialist she would fly into a rage. Once I had said, "He's like that with everyone," and she screamed at me that I was lying. She really seemed to get off only on medical attention. She was clearly competing with me, she had only acquired the quad sticks after she saw me using my canada crutches a year earlier.
    At the seminar, Marie kept interrupting the guest speaker with personal questions. Instead of making general questions, she had to ask specifically about her own symptoms. It was bizarre and embarrassing.

    Later we dropped her off at her retirement home. She was on fire, had enjoyed a wonderful evening, in her eyes clearly the sickest person present but to us looked as healthy as an ox. My neighbour walked her to her room. Marie almost flew up the stairs, quad sticks not touching the ground, except for when she 'remembered' she was disabled. As he pushed open the door to her room, he told me later, she grabbed him and kissed him - tongue and all. He was in shock, all the way home from there he kept saying, "She kissed me - yuk!" and wanting to drag his tongue on the tarmac.

    Marie was a sad case, she had no concept of love or affection unless it came in a white coat holding a hypodermic. The kindest thing the matron could do for Marie was to give her the vitamin injection the doctor ordered.

    BY sheer fluke I did eventually find out about Marie's past. A woman who shops around for doctors also shops around for other organisations to lean on and to leech. My close friend was associated with another organisation which had Marie in their number at one time. She had a different batch of medical problems back then but also had a young daughter who was always sick (according to Marie) but the doctors often could find nothing wrong. Then another contact a few years later reported encountering Marie, but no sign of a daughter or any hint one had ever existed.

    The final contact I had with Marie was when our specialist had successfully referred her to a psychiatrist colleague of his (who was doing more than just psychiatry). She rang me excitedly to tell me that he had diagnosed her with "chronic somatisation syndrome." It sounded so rare, so important, she was thrilled.
    I quietly looked it up. It meant that she had been faking disability for so long that she had actually developed functional disability.

    Marie openly declared she was ill, but she also was a skilled faker. She must have realised, at some level, that she was making it up, but for her she needed to be ill in order to get the only attention in the world that she could value. Anyone else with health problems was a potential rival and had to be undercut or outclassed (hence her attempt to copy me). Any hint that you were on to her and she would get vicious. I know if I had persisted in accusing her of faking, she would have vanished and started over again somewhere else.

    Munchhausen's patients will often make themselves sick if they must, to get medical attention. A Munchhausen's by proxy will make other people sick, in order to get attention (often as the hero rescuing others, or the desperate but angelic parent with the suffering child). If they can they will just fake it, but if they have to cause themselves harm they will. Their entire life revolves around getting attention for medical problems.

    A hypochondriac wants to be well but is afraid he is not. A hypochondriac will seek medical attention in order to get well.

    A Munchhausen's patient's sole purpose is to acquire medical attention, not to get well but for its own sake. But it is never enough, it is a craving that can never be satisfied. And the resentment when they see someone else getting what they consider to be more medical attention - they will behave like jealous two year olds.

    Some are stupid, like Marie. Some are very smart and much cleverer at covering their tracks, like the other woman I mentioned in passing. I lost contact with her years ago, when she knew I was on to her. Anyone who ever seemed remotely critical of her was cut not only from her personal contacts, but from her cronies as well. She is a charismatic and powerful person who was able to sustain her own credibility by removing anyone who didn't consistently believe in her and champion her cause.

    They often feature Munchhausen's on TV medical shows. Just as when they feature autism or ADHD, I can pick it - every time. It's become a family joke.