Living with a Hypochondriac...

Updated on April 26, 2012
M.L. asks from Spokane, WA
12 answers

My mom will be staying with us for a month. Problem is, she is a hypochondriac (fakes or percieves illnesses, she's not lcinically diagnosed as one, but she still fakes to get attention)... but she also has valid medical issues.

It's very hard to tell when she is actually sick, when she is exageratting an existing illness, or when she is just plain faking. It's a constant annoyance and it effects every aspect of her/our lives. I'm pretty good at figuring ot when she's faking, but I also fear being insensitive when she is in actual pain, and not taking it seriously. She is worse for my sister, better behaved for me because she knows I don't let her get away with as much. (Yes, we have reverse roles, I have had to become more of a mother figure over the past several years.)

She is still young, about 56... but has been living with either me or my sister for the past several years due to medical issues. Some real, (she has had to have a few surgeries due to degenerative arthritis), some not real. Not to mention she tends to overexaggerate, plays 'victim' and has some mental issues. At one point, I almost had her institutionalized, but she has been better for years in that regard as she continues taking her hormone/thyroid meds. My father had Leukemia growing up, so now that he is dead, I sometimes wonder if she pretends in order to recieve the same kind of treatment and sympathy she had to give him. I am tired of dealing my my middled aged mother as if she were a senior citizen.

One day about a year ago (after she lived with us for several months to recover from a surgery), she just up and quit herstable job to go and move in with her sister so they could have fun in another state. Then, she moved in to take care of her aging mother in another state, than she needed surgery, so now she is back with my sister. She is only supposed to be with us for one month when my baby is born, but I fear she will end up needing some type of surgery or something and be here for a while. In the meantime, she has most her belongings in 2 storage units, 7 hours away from us. We have moved her multile times, cleaned out and moved storage units multiple times... I have counseled her she needs to get a job, get her own apartment and clear the storage units, but she refuses to make choices about her life, then gets upset when my sister and I have to make choices for her. She hints around that she would rather live with one of us, help buy a house with a mother in law apartment. My sister and I are booth pretty poor and so is my mom! She is able to have some $ while not working due to VA benefits, but it's not very much. Then, she whines that her belongings are scattered in 2 storage units and 3 houses in 3 different states.

I know about enabling and such... we don't enable her near as much as my sister (they have a co-dependant relationship) , I gues I'm just at a loss, what would you do in this situation? I have probably written about her before, but... really? It's like a never ending cycle no matter what we do, so anything from a fresh perspective is appreciated.

*She is pretty easy to live with and is otherwise a very sweet and caring person. So it's fine if she is here, is just the constant passing around and figuring out what to do with her that gets draining. She has only ever lived with me for about 6 months total... she has lived with my sister for around 3 years off and on. She literally does nothing to help when we move her though, she will just sit there, sometimes even leave, then the movers show up and then WE are forced to pack her up and everything becuase they have to enforce it. So, even when we refuse to do things, it still gets thrown on our lap.

What can I do next?

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answers from Chicago on

Like a child give het lots of positive attention and when she is playing up send her ti her room to "get better". Hopefully this will start to retrain her. Then let her know the dates of expectations and stick to them for employment, apartment and self sufficiency as she needs to understand that you have a full plate and she is a young women and may have 40 years ahead of her to live and she needs to find a life that she can live as ling and independently as she can then talk living arrangements for cohabitation around 70.

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answers from Charlotte on

I am sorry if I sound callous to your mom, but if I were you? I'd go get that stuff of hers and pull it out of storage and sell it. I doubt I'd even tell her.

Yes, that IS callous.

But she has mental issues and she will likely never live by herself. All that money going into storage is going down the drain. At the point that she can't pay it anymore, her storage will end up on Storage Wars on TV with Dave buying it, saying "Yep!" until he gets to $1000 and takes the whole kit and kaboodle.

You need to go through her stuff at your house and weed out what she doesn't use. That way when she goes to her sister's, you don't have so much to do. She will be upset. Let her be. She will say she is ill. Tell her you are sorry, but ignore that part. Make sure her bloodwork is current and that she eats healthy. Don't buy any junk for her to eat.

Forget buying a house for her - that's a ridiculous notion. She will leave you in debt and it will be a mess for you. If her insurance (dear God, I hope she has some) covers it, get her some therapy with a psychiatrist.

Whatever you do, do NOT sign any papers whatsoever taking any responsibility for her at the hospital. And I mean it. If you sign anything, they can come after you for her hospital bills. Just because she lives with you doesn't mean that you have to support her by paying her bills.

Go ahead and take care of the storage units. Again, I know I sound awful saying it, but she will never use that stuff again and it is just costing you all toil and trouble, for no good reason.

Good luck,

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Honolulu on

Has she ever had a Therapist?

And you will be having a baby soon.
Sounds like she will need more upkeep than an infant.
And you will be tired.
She is "supposed" to be staying with you for 1 month.
Does she KNOW that?
I imagine this must stress out your Husband too?

Gosh what a hard situation.

Next: WHAT is she going to do, after her 1 month stint with you, ends?
Does she have a plan or plan for other lodging???
If not, she needs to. NOW, make those plans.
Then she does not like when you/your sister make plans for her.
On a calendar or poster, put a Time-Line on it... and cross off the days?
Maybe she needs to see a "visual" about her finite lodging at your house?

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Miami on

Dear Momma L,
Congrats on having a baby soon :)

I say this from a place of love. That first month needs to be about you and your baby. You need to mother your baby and you need loving supporting people mothering you.

It sounds like your mom will perhaps take away energy from you and your caring for yourself and your baby.

What do you think?

I share this from a place of knowing and experience, and again, love.

I think perhaps that her not being around a 'mothering' act you can give yourself and your child.

If you were my non-virtual friend :), this is how I would try to help.

I send a hug. Best of Luck.


2 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I always feel for people who have to "raise" their parents. So sad. Sorry you have to go through that.

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answers from Phoenix on

I guess this is more of a vent since you already acknowledge that you know not to enable her and she needs to get it together and get her own life. I would just make it clear that she is only there for a month and that is IT. It doesn't matter if she ends up needing surgery or not. She is doing what she is because you all have allowed her to do this your entire lives. Its likely she won't change now so just make it clear that you will not be her caretaker. Just my opinion. Good luck.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Raleigh on

I have a sister who is similar... IMO The tough love approach is kind of the answer. At some point you pack her stuff and ask her to leave. Tell her you love her and it is time for her to stand on her our two feet.

The problem with this is it is A LOT easier to say then do. I did it with my sister and it broke my heart and our relationship has never been the same again.

It may mean she just finds someone else to "help" her out. It is a matter of when you reach your breaking point. I'm am sorry that you are in this situation. There is no good answer or solution.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Nashville on

Hypochondriacs don't see their talking about it as is real to them and a true mental FEAR of whatever they complain about - whether it is the illness or the fear of dying from the illness. The only way to combat her FEARS is to reassure her, but do not ignore, no matter how annoying...

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Austin on

I'm not sure why you are bringing your mom into your home when you are going to have a baby. I wouldn't have had any energy or patience to deal with someone so needy when I was almost due and then especially after having the baby. I was low on sleep, low on energy, feeling guilty for neglecting my husband, etc.

You will need to decide ahead of time what you will tolerate and what you won't and make a plan. Then you will not find yourself reacting, but rather acting rationally. For example, you are in the middle of feeding your baby and your mom says she is "dying of some horrible pain." Decide now what your response will be. Make a whole list of her behaviors and comments that you can expect from her and have an action/response for each one.

I love the idea of getting your mom involved. If she doesn't get involved in something outside of your home (volunteering or something) then she can't come.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Victoria on

If she ends up needing surgery she can go live with your sister. That is the only option for you because you need to nurse and care for you nb baby! When she whines about her belongings being scattered around tell her to "do something about it". It actually sounds benifficial for her and you if she moved in with you! It sounds unhealthy for her if she were to live with your sister.

The attention/sick thing sounds like she is board. Give her a hobby, join a church, plant a garden. Keep that woman busy. Give her lists of things to do then other times give her "days off". Take notes and show her that when she is not active she has time to dwell on her "illnesses". My thinking is show her that when she is busy she can overcome her illnesses and make it through the day. She is of great value and God has given her this life . She has the oppertunity to really live it up and make the most of it. Good luck and God bless.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Las Vegas on

What would I do in this situation...I would get her some help. It doesn't matter where it comes from but she needs some help. If she prefers her church, wonderful, otherwise, go through her insurance. If she doesn't have insurance, start looking for assistance. Her behavior is not normal and I am one to question people on what normal is.

She does need to be a functioning adult and she doesn't seem to be doing that.

I do have an Uncle that does this. He roams and works, therefore supporting himself.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

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