Thursday, December 31, 2015

Am I a Hypochondriac, or Do I Have Fibromyalgia?

If you are someone who has fibromyalgia, you probably know how hard it was to get properly diagnosed. You also know approximately how many different illnesses/disorders you have added to your list of ailments. So how do you know it is not hypochondria?
The brain is a very powerful organ, but it can be highly influenced by suggestion or stress. I knew someone who went blind suddenly! She had a good doctor who asked the right questions, and she was diagnosed with hysterical blindness brought on by stress. I think knowing what it was helped her to regain her eyesight.

Hypochondria is psychosomatic, most often caused from anxiety. One might read an article about an illness in a magazine or online, and then starts thinking they have the symptoms listed, so they must have that problem, too. Have you ever watched a commercial for a certain drug and wondered if you have the illness the drug is for because you have the cough, the rash, the pain, or whatever symptoms are given in the spiel? 

When I was in college, I had to participate in a debate. The topic was advertisements for medications and whether they were a good thing or a bad thing. I was assigned the bad-thing side. In order to debate properly, one must learn both sides of the issue. 

One of the things I learned was that some people will go to their doctors and demand the drug being advertised. Some doctors will give them the medication, even though they do not believe the person needs it. I also learned that many side effects are not known for the first 5-10 years a drug is on the market. 

After getting an EKG from taking one round of phen-fen back in the 1990's, I decided not to ever take a new drug - it was discovered that some people were dying from phen-fen's effect on their hearts and pulled from the market after my first round. Hence, the EKG to make sure my heart was not damaged. Thankfully, it was not.

Ironically, some of the treatment for hypochondria is the same as for fibromyalgia. The anti-depressant needed for pain in the fibromyalgia patient helps the hypochondriac deal with anxiety. Therapy to help the fibro patient deal with their life changes can help the hypochondriac deal with the mental issues causing their issues.

So, what is the difference? Well, the fibro patient has actual pain and other symptoms that can definitely be diagnosed. Fibromyalgia is a diagnosis of exclusion - when the cause of real symptoms cannot be ascertained, that is when fibromyalgia is the diagnosis. 

No, I am not a hypochondriac. My many symptoms have been building over the years, and each has been definitely diagnosed, but there does not seem to be a definite cause of the symptoms - what brought them on. After many tests - many tests, I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. Fibro is the totality of the variety of ailments, not one specific thing.

If you have fibromyalgia, do not allow people to say it is all in your head. You know what you went through just to get the proper diagnosis. Some people cannot be convinced; do not even try, because it will not do any good. If necessary, sever communications with the naysayer. It sounds harsh, but your health is most important.

Take care of yourself,
Amelia