‘Rule out first, rather than regret later' is the mantra. However, some people constantly fear they might be suffering from some ailment. Neeraja Murthy reports

This may sound like the story of your life. You spend long hours in front of the computer, have a cushy job and are chilled out with a fast-paced lifestyle. But, there is one botheration - you are fit and fine but feel you might be suffering from some ailment. Your negative laboratory tests do not convince you and you change the doctor in the hope of a satisfactory reply. Welcome to the world of ‘Doubting Thomases' who have wealth and comfort but no peace of mind because of constant fear. “It is basically a psychological disorder. They are called hypochondriacs and the other disorder is Munchausen's Syndrome,” states psychiatrist G. Prasad Rao. Dictionary defines Munchausen's Syndrome ‘as a mental disorder in which a person repeatedly feigns severe illness so as to obtain hospital treatment.'

“These people are quite internet-savvy and have similar characteristics. They are always seen visiting specialists with a bag filled with reports, ECGs, X-rays, scans and tests. Instead of facing the reality of visiting a psychiatrist for therapy, they suffer and in turn the family suffers too. They are even nick-named ‘Dr Shoppers',” says the doctor. Awareness campaigns and the importance given to ‘how-to-be-healthy' stories on the small screen and newspapers have made a positive sea change in the mindset.

The mantra is to ‘rule out first rather than regret later.' “This is quite a good trend but these health freaks pick only things they like and try to compare them with their body changes. Like, if they have been visiting the bathroom quite often, they suspect they might be diabetic. Frequent urination is only one of the symptoms of diabetes. Symptoms do not always mean that one has the problem,” says homoeo consultant Dr. Venugopal Gouri. He says these people have extremes of moods and are paranoid and anxious all the time.

Even as psychiatrists say men and women are equally prone to this disorder, Dr. Venugopal feels women might be more affected as they are more stressed-out than men (due to multi-tasking) and hormonal changes.

Hiral, a counsellor working at KIMS and Lotus Children's Hospital, says these disorders should not be mistaken with lies told by children to bunk school. “Some kids often pretend to have stomach ache to avoid going to school. That could be due to fear of getting the report card or writing some test.”

Hiral also says counsellors face a lot of challenges including non-cooperation by clients. Recalling an incident, she says, “One client had undergone a blood transfusion. He got high fever and was convinced that he had AIDS. I tried to counsel him but he was not happy with my sessions as I did not tell him what he wanted to hear.”

Infertility expert Dr. Roya Rozati has the final word though. “Just because some people have some disorder, it should not stop others from updating themselves about different health-related issues. If there is no awareness, there is every possibility that they know about an ailment at a last stage. Not just that, some quacks with incomplete knowledge might also take them for a ride.”

Keywords: healthdisease