Saturday, April 14, 2007

Hypochondria, Malingering and Stigmatization

Any hypochondriac will tell you that stigma is a part of their life. On second thought, most hypochondriacs won’t even tell you their a hypochondriac in an attempt to avoid that stigmatization all together. I’m part of that group, I won’t tell my family or friends, let alone my doctor.

I think part of the stigma surrounding hypochondria is the public’s misperception of the disorder. Many people incorrectly characterize hypochondriacs as individuals who intentionally fake illness for gain. Contrary to popular belief, that is not hypochondria, it’s malingering.

Hypochondria is an excessive preoccupation with illness. An internal battle of an individual who wants nothing more than to be healthy, but obsesses that she is sick. Quite adverse to malingering, many hypochondriacs—though they believe they are sick—intentionally fake health to avoid stigma.

Malingering on the other hand, is not a preoccupation with illness, or an internal battle. It’s a deliberate falsification of illness for gain. An example of malingering would be an individual who fakes a fall at work in order to receive workers’ compensation. The malingering individual knows she is not sick. The hypochondriac believes she is.

I think once the public realizes that hypochondriacs aren’t conniving individuals, there will be sympathy for hypos rather than disgust. Hypochondriacs will no longer be dismissed, but treated as individuals with a tangible disorder.


Sean said...

No worries Leila! I'd never confuse your psychosomatic disorder for that of a malingerer.

And for the record, I'm for hypo's getting married too, and none of that "civil union" crap either.

Sean said...

I don't have to explicitly say that I was being facitious... do I?


Barbora said...

“Hypochondriacs will no longer be dismissed, but treated as individuals with a tangible disorder.”

Alleluia! Preach on Sister!

Sign me up for the “Hundred Hypochondriac March & Rally!”

I’m seeing a cartoon in my mind’s eye of someone asking, “Anybody got an extra aspirin?” at the Hundred Hypochondriac March.

The Million Agoraphobic March would simply be an empty frame.

Leila V. said...

Thanks! Nice to know we have full support from some in the healthy community. I hate half-steppers.

And wouldn't that march produce some major symptoms!

Barbora said...

Good point.

Lacy said...

Yo! Super good post. May I use it on my site someday (with credit given, of course!)?

It's very clarifying.

health watch center said...

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This is my first comment on your blog so I am just going to say hi then start my journey..

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Leila V. said...

Thanks! By all means spread the word!

Health Watch Center? (not sure if this is a real person or a spammer):
In any event, hope you enjoy the journey!

Trish said...


Great post. However, I suspect any sympathy will be tempered with the same attitude a lot of people have about alcoholism, addiction, and mental illness: that it's somehow self-inflicted, and we could get better if we just quit humoring ourselves.

Cant' wait for that march, though. Maybe aching feet will take my mind off other symptoms.

Leila V. said...

Whoa Trish, let's not compare ourselves to the alcoholics and addicts now! We've got enough people to do that for us. ;)

Trish said...


Oops--sorry about that. Let the meanies get around to that comparison in their own good time.

health watch center said...

Hello Leila V.

Well I am not a spammer I have few health related blogs. You can check them if you want to.


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Anonymous said...

I have just found your blog...are you me?

I have so much to share. In a nutshell, my obsession with getting a neological condition climaxed on a 2 week, $10,000 European/USA trip of a wife time with an old friend from high school three years ago.

I had upper lips spasm that presented intermittently over a few months then they became constant when I was overseas. Great… I have Motor Neurones Disease (I have a hard time even writing it!), and I am on this trip of a life time. Down came the big black cloud. I returned fro the trip, went started to a doctor who said….maybe you’re a little anxious? I then tried best to manage my obsessive thoughts myself…hmmm… not a great idea. The thoughts made me more obsessed and disconnected from the world. It went on for 6 months until I had testing for MND as was defiantly told I didn’t have it. Thankfully since then my symptoms ranging for spasms, twitchs, alerted sensations, pain, etc , are managed better. I let them be for a while and if they persist I get straight to the doctor and have testing as I can’t manage the thoughts. I need answers that are clinically based.

I did have one crazy episode a few months back when I had a red bowel motion…agghhh….” I’m bleeding from the bowel”, not recalling the beetroot salad I had the night before. As I was being picked up to go to my folks surprise anniversary party in 30 minutes and not want my ridiculous obsession to ruin things, I did what any normal person would do, take your poo to the VET around the corner for testing before the party. Crazy!!

korie m. said...

Reading your blog has truly opened my eyes to see that I actually have an actual disorder. Thank you for making it humorous though :) That helps as I secretly wonder if i'm experiencing double vision and if the pain in my head is a sign I need cranial surgery.