Hypochondria, now called illness anxiety disorder, is difficult not only for the person who suffers from it, but for those who love and care about it. Living with someone with hypochondriasis can be easier if you learn as much about this problem as you can and ensure that your loved one receives professional help. Learn how to help a friend or family member with hypochondriasis and don't forget to take care of yourself.
Method 1 of 3: Help someone with illness anxiety
Step 1. Understand that illness anxiety creates real distress
Illness anxiety disorder is a mental disorder, like depression or obsessive compulsive disorder, and it is a real illness. As much as the illness is not real, the stress feels very real. Serious illness seems like a serious possibility to your loved one, and reassuring words won't make it go away.
Thanks to the internet, the world is full of information about the latest outbreaks of the disease and the possible causes of various diseases. Helping someone with illness anxiety disorder avoid as much information as possible allows some of it to be filtered out
Step 2. Listen, even if the complaints seem bizarre or made up
People with illness anxiety disorder need to be heard. This helps prevent anxiety and panic that they may experience from being ignored. If no one notices, your loved one's beliefs about the disease could multiply, causing them to believe that their unreal state is getting worse.
Active listening does not mean agreeing with their fears, but rather giving the person your time to be understood in an understanding way, and letting them know that you are willing to listen to their concerns
Step 3. Acknowledge the symptoms and offer kind reminders that she will be fine
People with illness anxiety disorder often worry about their symptoms excessively. By recognizing your loved one's symptoms, you may be able to validate their feelings, which will help calm them. If you kindly suggest that her pain could be caused by a less serious cause, you can also offer an easier solution to her fears.
- For example, you can say "I had a similar pain in my shoulder from carrying a heavy backpack, before switching to one with wheels. You may be tense or sore from the activity."
- You can also say, "Stomach pain does not usually mean stomach cancer. Most likely, you are stressed, broken down, or digesting something that did not sit well with you."
Step 4. Offer to treat the symptoms, without rushing to determine a cause
If your loved one has a stomach ache, offer stomach pills. If he has shoulder pain, show him some stretches to do. Doing something about their symptoms, no matter how small, can help your loved one stop obsessing over their complaints.
- Treat the pain or complaint without speculating too much about a possible diagnosis. Showing an overreaction or assuming the worst is a big part of their stress, so don't accept this stress.
- Suppose the symptoms are real. Your loved one is undoubtedly experiencing real pain. It may have a physical cause, such as a knee strain or a mild flu, or it may be caused by stress. Either way, you may feel better if you have treatment. Consult with a trusted doctor to treat pain.
Step 5. Encourage your loved one to do activities that they enjoy
Make sure he is outdoors or doing his favorite activity. This can help you forget stressful things and relax a bit. Getting more physical activity can be very helpful for anxiety, well-being, and fitness.
Method 2 of 3: Seek Professional Help
Step 1. Take your loved one to a doctor
Allow me to explain the symptoms to the doctor. If the professional does not identify an illness anxiety disorder, then set it aside and briefly explain your concerns.
"Hypochondria" is an outdated term, so your doctor will likely identify it as illness anxiety disorder
Step 2. Help your loved one choose between treatment options
Anxiety about illness can be treated with antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications, and psychological therapy. Arrange for the person to see a therapist about once a week, if possible.
Cognitive behavioral therapy can be an effective approach, as can gradual exposure therapy
Step 3. Talk about the possibility of concurrent problems
People with hypochondria may also experience other depression or anxiety disorders. Consider helping your loved one undergo evaluations to rule out these problems.
If your loved one is nervous, tell him that the exam only involves filling out a form with the symptoms. Remember that fear is a great aspect of the disorder. Listening to him and validating his feelings will help him deal with his fears
Step 4. Attend support group meetings for this disorder
A person with illness anxiety disorder may be able to find a support group nearby for people with this problem. You may also find it helpful to attend an anxiety support group, since the two are closely related.
Support groups are available for both the person with the disorder and their family members. Talk to the person's therapist and ask for support group recommendations
Method 3 of 3: Staying Balance
Step 1. Set limits when necessary
Your health and well-being are your first responsibility. It's okay to end a conversation or demand space if you don't have the energy to deal with her anxiety in the moment. Please kindly try to change the subject. Otherwise, tell him that you need some quiet time or that you need to take a break.
At first, walking away and sticking to the limits can be difficult, but sticking to them will help you reinforce them over time
Step 2. Help your loved one build a support system
You don't have to be the only person helping him. Encourage him to reach out to others for support through a variety of sources. Support can come from family, friends, co-workers, religious groups, counselors, and members of a support group.
In addition to benefiting both of you, the more people who know about the disorder and can offer real support, the better. Hiding the diagnosis can cause a person with this disorder to seek out people to talk to who are unaware of their problem, and the person could be caught in a spiral of anxiety with them
Step 3. Take your time to relax
You cannot help a drowning person if you can barely float. Spend time every day doing something you enjoy in order to keep your mental health at its best.
- Self-care can be anything that makes you feel good or helps you relax. The good side of self-care is that it is up to you whether you choose to relax with a massage, spending time alone while reading, or even doing strenuous exercise.
- Find a confidant with whom you can discuss your difficulties. It should be someone who is oblivious to the situation and who listens to you without judgment.
Step 4. Talk to a therapist if you feel overwhelmed
It's hard to help someone if you don't feel good about yourself. Find a source of support in the form of a therapist or counselor. This person can offer helpful suggestions for dealing with living with someone with illness anxiety disorder and for helping your loved one feel better.
Talking to a therapist can be a positive example for the person you want to help, as well as gain support for you. A person with illness anxiety disorder may feel embarrassed about going to therapy, and seeking services can normalize the process for your loved one
Step 5. Do fun things together to keep a positive bond
Reinforcing the positive aspect will show you that you can enjoy life and get positive attention for things, beyond always being "sick."
Fun things can be anything that allows you to connect and change the dialogue to talk about something other than illness. Some examples include playing a sport, watching a movie, or planning an exciting vacation
- Pay attention to suicidal thoughts. Sick anxiety disorder can lead to depression, which carries a risk of suicide. Call a doctor immediately if your loved one expresses wishes to die, disappear, or "no longer be a burden to others."
- Don't confuse illness anxiety disorder with faking an illness. People with this disorder really fear being sick, and are not doing it for care or manipulation.