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07/21/2011 05:27 AM

Dealing with a friend with hypochondria (long)

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I'm not a hypochondriac myself, but I figured this would be the best group to ask this in. I'm sorry if I'm being intrusive. Unsure

First off (this is relevant later in the post), I have chronic Lyme Disease. I've been very sick for a long time, and a lot of people, even friends, called me a hypochondriac because I had no diagnosis. Because of this I'm VERY hesitant to give my friend that label, but at this point I think it's kind of obvious.

Anyway, one of my friends from college has what seems to be a pretty weird case of hypochondria. About once a week, she thinks she's somehow poisoned herself, and no amount of reasoning will convince her otherwise. The first time I sat up with her all night, she told me she had eaten three bananas and a lot of salt, and was worried that would somehow convert into potassium chloride in her stomach and kill her. No amount of reason could convince her that this was practically impossible, and I sat up with her for three hours before she finally calmed down and went to sleep...and I was sick with a chronic illness and had an eight o' clock class. The next day, she realized how silly the whole thing was and joked about it, and I thought the whole thing was over.

I was wrong. She does this constantly. About once a week, in the wee hours of the morning, she'll IM me or my fiance if we're online, and if neither of us is, she'll text one or both of us to wake us up. She'll think she's somehow poisoned herself, swallowed a piece of glass or something else hazardous, or has some mysterious acute condition like acidosis and that she's going to die. Sometimes she forces herself to throw up multiple times. In the most recent case, she woke me up after midnight with incessant texts to my phone, and then my fiance stayed up with her until three because she thought there were maggots in her stomach eating her alive because she ate steak when there were gnats in the house.

One thing that really bothers me is that she's very inconsiderate of my own health problems, despite the fact that I will sit up with her all night to talk about hers. As I said before, I'm recovering from chronic Lyme disease. I need plenty of sleep to recover from this and it doesn't help that I already have insomnia. I've told her this, and she'll take the hint if she can find someone else to talk to, but if I'm the only one around she won't take no for an answer. She also is not very supportive when I talk about my health problems. For example, Lyme gives me aphasia, which comes in full-blown episodes, which she's seen, but also manifests in mixing up words from time to time. When I blamed a really bizarre typo on Lyme (an example of one of those is typing "thyme" instead of "time", something that's not merely a slip of the fingers or a simple misspelling), she said something along the lines of "you don't have to blame EVERYTHING on Lyme." She'll also interrupt me when I'm talking about a really severe episode I had to tell me about how she has a stomach ache and she thinks it's because the fish she ate had too much mercury in it. I've learned not to confide in her about Lyme anymore, which is fine, but it still seems kind of hypocritical that she can go on and on about her own health problems and I can't talk about my (more severe) ones.

I want to be there for her because she's a really good friend, but there's only so much my fiance and I can do. We're not the only ones she goes to with this stuff; she's also woken up her family or her roommate before as well. When she's not having an episode, she knows how unreasonable she was and even jokes about it, but every time we try to get her to seek help, she makes some excuse about why she can't, like that she doesn't have enough money (her parents are rich and the counseling center at our school is free) or that she already sees a physical therapist so she doesn't need one for mental health problems (huh?). We don't know what to do at this point. We really want to help, but this is starting to get frustrating and we think she needs more help than we can give her. The self-induced vomiting especially scares me, because she's been doing that more and more. What should we do?


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