It all began with headaches for Ramesh. An otherwise fit and athletic young man, he began to experience chronic headaches from time to time. Doctors couldn’t find anything wrong with him, yet he persisted in his belief that there was something that was causing these headaches. He started to spend increasing amounts of time researching his symptoms on the Internet and with each article he read, he became more and more convinced that he had some form of brain cancer.
How Ramesh felt about his headaches may not seem all that uncommon. As we fear and worry about the changes in our physical and mental well-being, we increasingly turn to the Internet for information. Being bombarded by information we are not in a position to fully understand, we worry more and sometimes end up convinced that our worse fears are true. Ramesh was convinced that he had a brain tumor.
In Ramesh’s case, doctors had pronounced him disease free, yet he continued to obsess over his headaches. What could be the reason for the headaches?
Ramesh was finally diagnosed as having Hypochondriasis. Hypochondriacs tend to worry about certain aches and pains they may be feeling and conclude that they have some potentially life threatening disease. They require reassurances from medical professionals on a regular basis and indulge in doctor-shopping.
Most hypochondriacs tend to go undiagnosed till their condition becomes all-consuming and take over their lives completely. Inordinate amount of time is spent researching diseases and trying to find evidence for their beliefs. Soon to follow are the extra ordinary measures some patients go to cure or prevent the further spread of the disease. Ramesh travelled all the way to Germany to have a complete check up; and a couple years later, travelled all the way to the US to repeat the same. These two trips left him in severe debt. As he worried about his debt, his hypochondrical fears worsened. Needless to say, as hypochondriacs act on their fears, it often ends up destroying not only the individual’s psyche but their social and professional lives as well.
After being approached by Ramesh for repeated tests and references to other doctors including neurologists, a physician told him that his condition was psychosomatic and not physical and referred him to a psychiatrist. Ramesh reluctantly visited the psychiatrist and was diagnosed as having a case of hypochondriasis.
At first he was downright adamant that his condition was purely physical and that the psychiatrist were incompetent at diagnostics. Eventually he reluctantly accepted that his condition could be psychological and agreed to take psychiatric medication and undergo cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy (CBT).
With treatment, over time, the severity of his headaches and their frequency reduced and eventually disappeared completely. He still has the occasional headache, but he stopped assuming that each headache was the symptom of brain cancer.
Please note that the information in this case study should not be considered as medical advice for an individual’s condition. If anyone shows or feel symptoms of a possible medical condition, we strongly encourage you to seek advice from your primary physician or a mental health professional for an evaluation as soon as possible.
The names been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.