Quote about physician attitudes toward hypochondriasis

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Studies show that at least a quarter of all patients report symptoms that appear to have no physical basis, and that one in ten continues to believe that he has a terminal disease even after the doctor has found him to be healthy. Experts say that between three and six per cent of patients seen by primary-care physicians suffer from hypochondria, the irrational fear of illness. The number is likely growing, thanks to increased medical reporting in the media, which devotes particular attention to scary new diseases likeSARS, and to the Internet, which provides a wealth of clinical information (and misinformation) that can help turn a concerned patient into a neurotic one. Nevertheless, hypochondria is rarely discussed in the doctor's office. The “worried well,” as sufferers are sometimes called, typically feel insulted by any suggestion that their symptoms have a psychological basis. Most patients are given a formal diagnosis of hypochondria only after ten or so years of seeing physicians, if they get such a diagnosis at all.

Doctors often dislike their hypochondriac patients; they consume inordinate amounts of time, and strain hospital resources with their interminable complaints. In the United States, it is estimated, twenty billion dollars a year is spent on patients whose psychological distress requires repeated tests and procedures. Many doctors and nurses make fun of hypochondriacs, calling them “crocks” and “turkeys.” The favored epithet among interns and residents is GOMER, which stands for Get Out of My Emergency Room. Many doctors are relieved when a hypochondriac leaves them for another physician.

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