Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Sympathy for the factitious patient

I went to the student health center last week for my annual exam. I showed up a few minutes late, and so rushed to fill out the paperwork while in the waiting room, expecting to be frowned at and told I should have arrived on time.

Instead, I was met with smiling faces, as the nurse ushered me in to an examining room, allowing me to drop my bag and jacket, before guiding me to a seat in the hall from where to take my blood pressure and temperature.

"Well, isn't that nice," I thought. "Like having a personal aide who tells you where to be and administers personalized services." Right then, I understood -- well, to some extent -- Munchausen Syndrome patients.

Patients with this disorder manufacture symptoms in themselves, usually through ingestion of toxic substances or inappropriate medications, in order to receive attention from healthcare professionals. While I don't really think I'd ever be capable of that -- Munchausen patients generally have personality disorders or history of abuse, so there's more going on than just a desire for some attention.

But in a very impersonal world, in which you can get through a day, or maybe a week, or maybe more, without any real meaningful human contact, especially if you're perhaps a little introverted or perhaps have a small-feeling job in a cubicle, this kind of attention feels really nice. It's attention not to how much work your team has produced or when you have entered and exited the building, but to you and your well-being. For a few moments, the efforts and thoughts of several professionals are focused just on you, and nowhere else. I don't have a small-feeling cubicle job, and am a student in what is maybe the most attention-intensive medical program in the country. But I can most definitely understand the desire to prolong those moments in the clinic.


Pinz said...

Hey, if you don't think you are up for ingesting toxic substances or inappropriate medications, there is always Munchausen by proxy. (Just don't do it to me.)

Rica said...

Thanks... I'll start looking around for candidates.

Ken said...

I walk by a manicure/pedicure place with big windows every day, and now understand.