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How can I help my mother overcome the fear of illness?

Q: My 50 years old mother has started behaving abnormally for the last month - like blabbering, worrying too much about her health and other family members. When checked with the general physician, the results were normal and they concluded that she was fine. Loneliness makes her problem worse. What should I do to help my mother overcome the fear of illness? Please advise.

A:I understand your concern for your mother's health and that you have shown her to a general physician. You have mentioned that since about a month your mother is quite worried about her own health and that of the family members, without any clear physical reason. You have also mentioned that loneliness makes the problem worse. It is quite possible that your mother might be suffering from depression, wherein one manifests sadness of mood, lack of interest, generalised body weakness, insecurities and concerns about health of self and others, anxiety symptoms and negative ideation. There may be associated sleep and appetite changes. Both biological stress (hormonal changes related to age) and environmental stress (family environment and dynamics) can contribute to the illness.

Given the behavioural changes that you have observed in her and a family history, I suggest your mother requires a detailed psychiatric evaluation. In the process we also need to understand if she has been through any recent stress or there has been similar history in the past. Based on the history, clinical features and relevant investigations, she would be advised the appropriate treatment. In the meanwhile, do not leave her alone (some caregiver from the family should be with her), be reassuring to her and do not argue/scold her for her worries.

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