Hypochondriasis is a very real anxiety disorder that actually has a new name…Illness Anxiety Disorder. If you are like me…you will just stick with the term hypochondriac! I have been struggling with the question, “Why does my child act like a hypochondriac” lately. The reason….because I have a child who acts like a hypochondriac, lol!
As a school nurse for 17 years I have seen a lot of children that I would say have hypochondriac tendencies. I don't know that very many of them were actually diagnosed with hypochondriasis…but I know that these tendencies can cause a lot of issues at home.
Let's talk about my little hypochondriac. First off…she has not been officially diagnosed and I don't see a diagnosis in her future. I doubt she has clinical hypochondriasis…but her obsession with illness and injuries is causing me some stress and I am guessing there are other parents out there struggling! I decided to write our story and what I have learned about this issue over the years of dealing with kids in the health room.
My daughter is wearing a brace, sling, using crutches, etc. at least once per week. Now…these aren't injuries that have required any medical care…no doctor visits or x-rays. She has random aches and pains and insists on using braces, etc at home for her issue. We have a whole stash of items that we have accumulated over the years that she likes to use for her “injuries”.
If she has a sore throat she begs me to take her to the doctor…she is sure it is strep throat. This child seems to enjoy being sick or injured. I have no idea why…and honestly it gets OLD!
Why Does My Child Act Like a Hypochondriac
Honestly…I may never know the underlying issue with why my daughter acts like a hypochondriac. You may never find out the why behind your child's behavior either, but there are several areas that can be explored.
Attention Seeking Behavior
One reason children come to the health room and feign illness is to get attention. Children can also feign illness and injuries or exaggerate illness symptoms or injuries at home to get your attention. If your child is having increased complaints of illnesses and injuries that are not medically sound…maybe they are trying to get your attention for some reason.
My daughter is almost 10 years old and I do think some of her complaints are attention seeking. We have four children and are a busy family. I try to make sure we are spending enough time with each child so that no one feels like they have to drum up business in the attention department!
Is it Learned Behavior
Many children who worry about their health are doing so because they have watched adults in their life do the same thing. Do you or your spouse…grandparents, etc talk about illness, ailments, physical complaints a lot? This could be something your child has seen you do and is now naturally doing themselves.
I know that I can tend to talk about health topics a LOT since I am a nurse. I also have a close family member who shall remained unnamed who talks about health issues a lot. I have been working to limit these discussions when my daughter is around! 🙂
Death or Serious of a Family Member or Friend
You may be able to pinpoint something that could have triggered your child's sudden obsession with their health. Has anyone in your circle of family and friends been diagnosed with a serious illness or even died lately? Situations like this can sometimes cause a child to become fearful that the same thing will happen to them. If this is the case for your child they may need to talk to a counselor that specializes in children's therapy.
This doesn't seem to be the cause for our daughter…she has been doing this for a long time now and I can't relate it to anyone's illness or death.
Triggered by Media Coverage
It is possible that your child has heard media coverage about serious disease outbreaks and these stories have scared them. It is something intangible and invisible that they don't understand and they can become focused on these unknown illnesses and if they will get it!
I know that sometimes as parents we unintentionally scare our kids to death….for their own good, lol! A good example is taking your child to get a flu shot…of course your child doesn't want to get the shot so we talk to them about why they need it. The flu is DEADLY….thousands of children die around the world every year from the flu, etc. We are trying to help our child understand the need for the vaccination, but in reality we are putting a fear into them of some unknown disease that they don't grasp!
This area is hard for me because I love to talk about health issues here and around the world and I also tend to lean toward the dramatic side! 🙂 I will be working on how I talk to my daughter about these types of issues when we hear about them!
Underlying Anxiety Disorder or Issues
Anxiety issues are very real in the world today. I think that all the information we have at our finger tips can actually cause a lot of anxiety. We have more information and more to worry about.
I have seen a LOT of children over the years at work with very real anxiety issues. If none of the reasons listed above fit your child…maybe they just have an underlying anxiety issue. If your child shows signs of hypochondria, but also is anxious about a lot of other things…it may be worth visiting with your doctor about!
I hope this has helped you answer the question, Why does my child act like a hypochondriac. I think it is helpful to try and figure out the cause of your child's anxiety about their health so that you can help them through it!
Be sure to head over and read part 2….What to do When My Child Acts Like a Hypochondriac! You may also want to read about Tips to Keep Your Child Healthy at School This Year! If you want to do more reading on the topic of hypochondriasis in children check out the Child Mind Institute for some good info!
*please note that I am not a doctor and am not offering medical advice. I am only sharing my experiences and knowledge with you. If you have any concerns about you or anyone else, seek professional help!