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Hypochondriacs have a sense of self, an identity, that is closely tied to a personal image of that self as ill or damaged or uncomfortable in some way.

Caregivers and parents and medical personnel would do well to remember that a hypochondriac cannot feel better, because to do so would be to contradict the person's essential self identity. Recognizing this can help the caregiver deal with the frustration of never being able to do enough.

Even objectively observable symptoms such as reduction of fever or knitting of broken bone are denied by the hypochondriac; and of course more subjective phenomena such as pain and weakness, which are difficult to measure, are an integral part of the patient's sense of self and caregivers can only accept self-reported levels.

I found that the best way to deal with my mother (the Supreme Goddess of Hypochondria) was just to do my best to make her comfortable, give her her meds, tote and fetch all the little things (pillow, book, foot covers, etc.) and then walk away to let her wallow in self-pity in peace. It was hard to accept that there was nothing more I could do, getting angry simply confused the patient (who didn't understand) and that I was simply running myself ragged on an unending hamster wheel trying to do more and more and more to fix what was wrong (an impossible goal).

Note to self: Remember this entry at the next 3 a.m. call for help.

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