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Question
Posted by: ABC | 2008/06/06

Exaggerated Illness

Hi, My boyfriends' 19 year old daughter has taken a number of days sick leave this year (she lives at home). She is very demanding and needs constant attention. She developed a cough and then fainted (? don't know if this is true) and seemed disorientated during the day asking "dad where am I" and forgetting to eat her food. We were both extremely worried. She went to the doc who put her on a saline drip. We then thought we better get a 2nd opinion and off to another doc. Then off to get a brain scan. Nothing was found. Both doc's asked what her emotional state was like. In my opinion she was a bit ill but tried to get as much attention as she could and exaggerated all the symptoms. I'm really struggling to deal with this as I feel very angry with her. What is the best way of handling this. Should we ignore it or should we confront her? She has been like "the little wife" before I came along so we think she's trying to find ways of getting his attention now. Bynature she is a drama queen and always interrupts conversations etc. She can be loud and also very bossy. Although she seems to be very fond of me, I now am questioning what is true and what is drama.

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Our expert says:
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The most likely diagnosis of an otherwise healthy 19-year old girl fainting, claiming to not recall where she is ( yet remembering that he is her dad! ) and "forgetting" to eat, is something histrionic like what used to be called hysterical behaviour --- attention seeking and self-dramatising, rather than any typical psych illness as such. ANd probably more common in an over-indulged and spoiled girl. I'm amazed that doctors would go so far as putting up a drip and getting a brain scan ( presumably having found nothing at all abnormal on a general physical and neurological examination ) rather than calling for a psychiatric consult. Typical dama queen, who feels outraged that she is no longer to be the "little wife" now that another woman is taking her place. She needs to be seen and assessed by a good local psychologist who needs more than just her own input, but also to see you to get the story of this peculiar episode and the general background. Continuing to fuss around her and indulge her, will inevitably make her more "sick" and needing more and more attention, but a psychologist's skilled assiatcne is needed, as to break off the attention she craves too abruptly without dealing with this addiction to it, could lead to raising the odds and to her escalating her performances.

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