|photo courtesy of ted percival from flickr commons|
For as long as I can remember, and on innumerable occasions I have heard individuals talking about the hypochondriac in their lives. The person who has nothing wrong with them, but constantly “makes up” conditions “to get attention”.
The first real, live hypochondriac I ever met was a patient that I treated during my internship at Palmer College of Chiropractic. Susan was a 40 year-old woman with a complaint of intense low back pain. Medical evaluation, including x-rays of her back gave no indication of a cause for her pain. Her husband stated, and her MD suggested that she might be suffering from hypochondria. She felt even worse under the burden of the accusation that she was fabricating the pain. She saw no easy way out, and so, intentionally pushed herself physically until she broke down. Surgery revealed a massively ruptured lumbar disc, and apologies were offered all around.
I had never imagined Susan a faker; and that was what I had told her from the beginning.
There are many important reasons why we should all be careful about accusing another of hypochondria, but here are three:
1) medical science has a notoriously poor understanding of pain,
2) if a person is regularly complaining of pain, they must either have physical or emotional pain, or both,
3) it’s too easy.
Naming a phenomenon or condition is easy. Blaming is easy. The real work is compassion, and finding the cause of the pain, physical or emotional.