What do you do when you are living with a person who feels a sprain is always a fracture, a headache always a tumour, a cough always a sign of tuberculosis and so on and so forth?
It’s called living with a hypochondriac, one that not only goes crazy oneself but drives the partner up the wall as well.
Take the case of Arti and Sushil. When they got married Arti had no idea how much of a health-obsessed person Sushil was. While she would dismiss it initially, she was forced to take notice when she realised he resented her attitude.
“It was difficult for me in the beginning to understand because I have never been like this. I have grown up taking care of myself and treating everything casually – taking aspirin for headaches, using ice or a pain-reliever for muscle pull and not fuss too much about it. For me, there were more serious things to worry about. But when I don’t pay much attention to what he feels are ‘life-threatening health issues’, he gets really upset and calls me insensitive. I first laughed it off bit realised he was quite serious. I don’t know what to do about him making so much fuss,” she says.
Experts say that while two people may be different, if the way they react to situations and things are very different then problems are likely to arise, since many perceive their partner’s lack of seriousness as lack of concern.
“Every time I told her about my illness she would just brush it off like I was imagining it. It made me feel like an idiot. I mean I know if there’s something wrong with me I need help. But if she doesn’t think then I am sorry to say I don’t think she feels much for me,” says Sushil.
Counsellors also say that living with a hypochondriac can be highly stressful for the other partner, who has to play along and bear all the whining with a grin. This is what happened with Rhea and Aryan. Every time Aryan fell ill, he would sit down with his laptop and look for all the symptoms, remedies and tests required in the case.
“I was sick and tired of not just hearing about his illness but to hear all the unappetising details about the ailment too,” says Rhea.
However counsellors say that a hypochondria is an illness that many people suffer from. Some seek all the information on the imagined illness, some consult doctor after doctor, and some go the other way and refuse to see a doctor – living in a limbo with the fear of the unknown without taking any medication. Counsellors also say that it can be highly stressful for the partner at the receiving end and if not dealt properly can drive a wedge between the partners. They suggest going about it calmly so as to not alienate the partner.
This is what Ashok did with his wife Mira. “Every time she had a palpitation she would get panicky and say that her blood pressure was shooting up and he may have a serious heart condition. It annoyed me no end but I stayed calm and got her a BP machine at home. That got her really excited and happy that I cared,” he said.
What also helped was that every time she felt uneasy she checked her BP on the machine and when it showed normal parameters she would relax. “I realised that was the best and the only way to deal with her. She was so sensitive about his health that any other response would have been misconstrued. I just decided to play along for her peace of mind – and mine,” he says.
Experts also say that if one is living with a hypochondriac partner, then it’s best to look at the bigger picture and act accordingly. There is no wisdom in rubbing the partner the wrong way – especially if he/she is already down and out. A little bit of support, concern and attention can help one to live with such a partner. If you love the partner and want to make the relationship work, then a bit of humouring and sympathy can be just what the doctor ordered.