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Friday, March 6, 2015

My Parent is a Hypochondriac

child of a hypochondriac 
A First Person Account:

Her health, or lack thereof, is always the focus and always has been. I honestly have no idea if she is truly ill or not, ever. My responses to her claims vary from alarmed to tuning out ... because I'm exhausted.

I know I can't count on her because her issues always trump my needs. I have paid for personal help when I was on bed rest while she told people how ungrateful I was.  I only mention this because it, as a single example of a life long awareness, is to show that the reality of adulthood was one that I, alone, carry. She is free to be helpless, uninformed, unable, needy...  Somehow her weird alchemy results in her having power in those choices.

Life moves on, I'm an adult.  How does this affect me now?
As a parent I often have no idea how to respond to illness that my children go through. One of my first reactions is She's faking it  (insert shame emoticon here).

As the child of a hypochondriac I have a constant internal struggle between knowing the reality of a health situation and having no idea how to respond to it.

  • Is this really happening?
  • What are the realities of the illness?
  • Am I overstating the symptoms?
  • Am I understating the symptoms?
  • Am I being whiny?
  • Do I understand the necessary components to a medical issue?
  • When is it a crisis?
  • When do I need to see a doctor?
  • Is my child a hypochondriac?
  • How skewed are my perceptions of physical health?
  • What to do with the shame of not knowing?
  • What to do with the feelings that happen on those occasions that I need help from a friend or family member?
  • What of that odd moment when I need help and someone steps in generously?
  • I'm unsure how to respond to illnesses of my children. 
  • Am I ill...?
  • When I am ill, am I being a hypochondriac?

It feels shameful and embarrassing to never really know if my perceptions are accurate or not. And there is that additional confusion between uncertainty and appreciation when I need to ask for help and someone steps in...  I tell the healthcare provider I am the child of a hypochondriac and that makes it difficult for me to know if/when this is a problem so I appreciate your patience and information. Just today a physician said to me This is an issue that is real and that needs care.

I appreciated her understanding.

I continue to learn, to be honest, and to inform myself. I have surrounded myself with caring people who help me with my perceptions when I need that.  I am learning to trust my instincts. I am learning appropriate responses to illness and first aid needs. I am gentle with myself for my growth areas.  I am closer to the place where I know what to do. 

  • I can locate and trust good medical advice.
  • I can learn healthy responses to illness.
  • I can inform myself about how to respond to illness.
  • I can show my children these healthy responds.
  • I am gentle with my own level of understanding.
  • I can explain to my children and to myself how to arrive at a diagnosis and how to determine an appropriate treatment plan.
  • I can trust my senses.
  • I can keep my empathy and compassion whenever illness is involved.
  • My children are honest reporters.


  1. "I am the child of a hypochondriac and that makes it difficult for me to know if/when this is a problem so I appreciate your patience and information." This is so cool! What a wonderfully clear and helpful sentence for your healthcare providers!
    I'm also thinking that this can be applied with other difficulties in other areas of life too... hmmm...pondering.

    1. Yeah, I figured that one out myself. ;)