Is every stubbed toe a broken bone? Every cramp an ulcer? Every tingle a neurological malfunction? If so, you may be living with a somatoformiac!
WAYNE: A more correct and current term for hypochondria is a somatoform disorder, as in a psychosomatic illness. It's expensive and very frustrating. The people who have a somatoform disorder are a bottomless pit of need for attention. And they will never recognize their problem.
My ex-wife was a classic case. After a particularly trying trip to the emergency room, I brought home the prescription for whatever disease she was faking that time. I then asked her in my most sarcastic tone, "Better read up on the side effects, so you can pick which one you'll get." She did, and she was back in the emergency room for the second time in 32 hours!
SASHA: My husband may very well be the king of the hypochondriacs. Every headache is a brain tumor; every cough is pneumonia; every sore throat is tonsillitis. When the doctor dismisses or debunks his worries, they only come back stronger. Of course, when he wants to do something, he's fine.
I think he gets it from his father, but that only adds fuel to his fire, because his father died young of a heart attack. The thing is he's making the same mistakes his father did. He ignores real problems that could shorten his life (like refusing to put forth a serious effort to lose weight and quit smoking) in favor of focusing in on the aneurysms and various cancers he doesn't have.
I love my guy, so I've learned to deal. I encourage him when he talks about or starts taking steps to be healthier, make sure he sees the doctor regularly to rule out any real medical issues and try my best not to say things like "You do not have a tumor, so get over yourself and take out the trash." I figure it could be worse. Maybe.
LIONEL: It started out simply enough. When my wife had a headache — the kind you or I would take two aspirins for and get on with it — she stayed home from work for a day. Then it became two days. Then it became two days once a month.
We went to every specialist we could find. They tested her for everything they could think of. Nothing. Every test came back negative. It was good news and bad news. We were glad they didn't find anything serious, but we were frustrated that they couldn't find out what was causing the headaches. We had our house tested for mold and other pollutants. Still nothing.
Finally, her internist suggested she see a psychiatrist. After months and months of therapy, and thousands and thousands of dollars, we got to the bottom of her headaches: She hated her job and wanted to stay home and have a baby. She knew we had decided to put it off for a few years while we saved for a house, but her mind and body had other plans.
We quickly decided her health was more important than where we lived. She got pregnant, and the headaches miraculously disappeared!
Have you ever been involved with a hypochondriac? Send your tale, long with your questions, problems and rants to [email protected] And check out my e-books, "Dear Cheryl: Advice from Tales from the Front" and "I'll Call You. Not.