As a physician, it is already tough dealing with multiple tough patients with physical issues. So dealing with a patient suffering from hypochondria can make your day feel even longer. But these patients do have their own issues and shouldn’t just be pushed aside because their symptoms are not physically real.
What is Hypochondria?
Hypochondria is a term that gets thrown around more loosely now when someone feels sick. But for many, this is a real life anxiety disorder they deal with 24/7. Having an itchy throat or a headache causes them to feel as though their life is in danger. They often feel the need to constantly justify and talk about their health and spend money on constant visits to the doctors. It is just as unpleasant for them to hear nothing is wrong with them as it is for a medical professional to tell them.
But there are ways for physicians to help their patients with hypochondria, and it all starts with making an appointment.
How Doctors Can Help Patients with Hypochondria
Build a Relationship
As a physician treating a regular patient with hypochondria, schedule regular appointments. Because those with this anxiety disorder often feel the need to go online to justify their medical issues or call the doctor’s office multiple times. Instead, it is better to keep up a regular appointment schedule. Building a relationship with this type of patient will help create trust between he/she and their attending physician. They may even be less likely to come in as often.
Assemble a Team
Now, hypochondriacs don’t require the Avengers, but having a few extra nurses or special doctors around to assist is helpful. Social workers or mental health physicians may be able to help the patient understand that there is nothing physically wrong with them at this moment, but perhaps a deeper look can be taken into another area causing them to feel this way.
Sometimes what the patient really needs is a focus on their mental health. Suggesting they see a therapist can help them alleviate a lot of the stress they feel about their problems and find a meaning behind why they constantly feel they are sick. They can also be prescribed anti-depressants or anxiety medication that may alleviate their symptoms.
Refocus the Conversation but Never Stop Listening
When a patient comes in with a complaint, listen to their symptoms carefully. It may be as simple as helping them understand they may have an issue as simple as fatigue or a cold. Refocusing the appointment down to basics is a great way to alleviate the stress of a major illness. And always listen to what they have to say completely. At times, these regular visits may seem a lot like “the boy who cried wolf,” but eventually, everyone has something that is a genuine health concern.