My 9-year-old daughter is a sweet, talkative little girl who has a tendency to exaggerate things, but within the past two years her claims of different illnesses and injuries have steadily increased to the point where it is literally every day. On school days, the first thing I’m informed about when I get home from work or as soon as I wake on weekends is either

  1. An injury she obtained at school ranging from scrapped knees, twisted ankles, etc. Sometimes there really is a scratch, etc. but never anything major to the naked eye and it’s always extremely exaggerated. Or
  2. A symptom that she has like a headache, sore throat, her ears hurt, etc.

They are announced in a very matter a fact tone, the injuries have a small story about how it happened and it always ends with her having to go to the nurse for something to help it. She even does this on the weekends and non school days.

This week for example she said while holding her pencil a friend scared her and she accidentally stabbed herself in the hand (her writing hand, that was holding the pencil). I did not see any marks or bruising and she continued to use it. She made 2-3 more comments about it before bedtime like “my hand hurts yet I’m still playing my Xbox game, that’s how much I love it”. Then the following day it was a headache that she had since first thing in the morning and on it goes.

She never asks to go to the doctor, almost always refuses any medicine to help the issue, and never really goes so far with the injuries where she refuses to use the hurt limb. She has no diagnosed illness, or mental deficiency and no one in our immediate family is cronicly sick. She doesn’t make any special requests or demands and try to use the sickness as a excuse so that is what has me so lost. The reasons for other kids faking sick don’t seem to apply to her, no out of the ordinary school issues and she still does it on non school days.

My husband and I are at a loss as to how to keep approaching this. We have tried being extra attentive after the claim, asking details and what she needs. We have tried to not draw attention to it, by listening and quickly confirming if she needed meds then moving on and over the summer I even tried to make her aware her words have consequences like when she would say “I have a headache” then an hour later ask if she could go next door to play I would remind her she had a headache and if she was ill she shouldn’t be going out. Nothing helps for more than a day or so.

I don’t want to be causing harm if this is a sign of a deeper issues. Is she just a complainer? I’ve thought about confronting her but again I would like some ideas so I don’t end up doing more harm than good. Any help or insight would be appreciated.

1 Answer 1


Hypochondria isn't likely once you consider the criteria for it. Based on your post: your daughter says she has a headache, but there is no follow through. She isn't doing the drama queen thing, curling up on her bed whining, moaning, calling out for you. I think we can safely rule it out.
Signs Your Child May be a Hypochondriac
Somatic Syptom Disorder Basics

Self-Mutilation doesn't fit either. Her reports of cuts, scrapes, and pencil jabs don't appear to break the skin. So let's rule out as well.
Treating Self-Harm in Children and Adolescents

Attention Seaking Behavior might fit if we consider that most things start small and increase in intensity. I'm sure you'll agree that the best course of action will be to "nip this in the bud" before the situation develops into something more concerning. You stated that you give her a little bit of attention, make sure that she has the option to see a Doctor or take medicine if she wants it. That leaves me with these suggestions.

  1. Be extremely melodramatic over the tiniest issue. If she really stabbed her hand with a pencil, you would flush the wound with Peroxide, make sure there was no lead in her hand, and bandage it. Go big. Wrap her hand like she has 3rd degree burns and then add an Ace Bandage to it. Put her in bed with a cup of hot tea and tell her she isn't allowed to do anything with that hand for 24 hours (at least) so you can make sure she didn't damage any tendons. I mean, really, overdo it. Anything you can think of that will make it an issue. Say prayers over her, like she's given herself lead poisoning. No TV, Gaming, Phone, Friends. Nothing that might include her using her hand. Give her a mug of soup for dinner (since she cannot hold a fork in her hand). Turn off the lights and tell her goodnight.
  2. Put her on restriction for lying to you. Punish her in some way. If she is doing this to get your attention, she needs to learn that this type of behavior is not acceptable. When she lies to you, she will be punished. Period.
  3. Schedule some "Me & You" (or "Us") time. That could mean a trip to the Mall, or an Ice Cream Cone, or going to the Bookstore together. It doesn't have to be about spending money. Take the dog for a walk together, ride bikes, do whatever. The point is that you are dedicating an hour or two to just be together. Consider setting up a reward system... If she doesn't make stuff up for one week (7 whole days) you will go see a movie together (or whatever). Gradually increase the length of time required for the reward until the behavior no longer exists. If she slips up and tells one of her "tales", then the clock starts again. It's really important that you don't give her other treats while the clock is ticking. If she gets treats during the 7 days, then earning the treat won't have the same value.

6 Ways Attention Seeking Behavior Can Be a Form of Manipulation
Attention Seeking Behavior: How to Gently, But Effectively, Stop It

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .