Phantom Illness: Shattering the Myths of Hypochondriaby Carla Cantor, Brian A. Fallon
In many minds, the term "hypochondriac" is synonymous with crank, malingerer, and fraud. However, hypochondriacs are not, in fact, pretending to be sick. Their complaints may be exaggerated, but their pain and suffering are real. In her compassionate book, Carla Cantor offers hope to those who suffer from this debilitating disorder. As one who has struggled with… See more details below
In many minds, the term "hypochondriac" is synonymous with crank, malingerer, and fraud. However, hypochondriacs are not, in fact, pretending to be sick. Their complaints may be exaggerated, but their pain and suffering are real. In her compassionate book, Carla Cantor offers hope to those who suffer from this debilitating disorder. As one who has struggled with bodily preoccupations and fear of disease, she shares what she has learned on the road to recovery. Through extensive interviews with physicians and compelling stories of men and women disabled by illness phobias and incomprehensible symptoms, Cantor helps to erase the stigma of hypochondria. Medicine's generally dismissive attitude toward this condition has left patients shuttling from emergency rooms to specialists to medical laboratories, for hypochondria is a significant challenge to the health care system. But a growing number of health professionals are trying to identify hypochondriacal patients and to figure out the underlying causes of their pain. Phantom Illness summarizes the latest theories on the origins and nature of the disorder; describes treatments, including medication, behavior therapy, and psychotherapy; and offers a diagnostic test so that readers can determine whether they are abnormally concerned about their health. Once they understand the tangled history of this malady and its prevalence, readers may be more accepting of the tendency toward hypochondria in themselves or in someone they love.
Not even recognized as a mental disorder by the American Psychiatric Association until 1980, hypochondria still goes largely undiagnosed and untreated. With the assistance of Fallon, a psychiatrist and researcher into hypochondria, journalist Cantor briefly traces its history, shows how it is viewed from the perspective of various psychological schools of thought, and presents vignettes of patients whose morbid fear of illness wreaked havoc with their lives. She tells, for instance, of Megan, whose "body dismorphic disorder" led to fears of going blind, deaf, and bald, among other obsessions; the anxiety led in turn to alcohol dependence and dropping out of school. Although Cantor's primary focus is on the person suffering from hypochondria, she explores the impact it can have on a marriage and how it can shape family dynamics. As elsewhere, her personal revelations lend force to the facts: Her own marriage was nearly ruined by her illness. She writes, "My husband . . . was tired of being supportive. I was wracked by guilt, but so angst ridden that I couldn't focus on anything except my symptoms." Relationships between the physician and the hypochondriacal patient are also examined from the perspective of each. Throughout, end-of-chapter boxed lists, such as "Judging the Medical News" and "How Not to Encourage the Sick Role," provide quick-reference advice. Although Fallon's own approach is based on the theory that hypochondria is linked to obsessive- compulsive disorders and may be caused by biochemical imbalances in the brain, the final chapter describes not just the psychopharmacological approach but two other therapies that have proved effective: the psychodynamic and the cognitive-behavioral.
Of special interest to sufferers, but also valuable to their families and to health professionals.
- Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company
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- Product dimensions:
- 5.82(w) x 8.61(h) x 1.24(d)
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