7 Ways to Cope If People Think You Are Faking Symptoms After a Stroke

There are many unpleasant consequences of having a stroke such as vision loss, strained speech, weakness, trouble walking, headaches, seizures, and adjusting to new medications, to name just a few. In addition to the physical challenges, there are practical considerations when it comes to driving and going back to work.

One of the subtle, yet emotionally painful consequences that some stroke survivors have to endure is the experience of being accused (subtly or clearly) of faking.

Because stroke symptoms are often vague and may wax and wane, many people do not understand what a stroke survivor is going through. To make matters worse, it is recognized and documented in the medical community that those who fake illness often feign weakness or other neurological symptoms. And, for a stroke survivor, one of the most challenging situations of all is to be accused of faking by your employers or by human resources at your company or by those who administer your health care or disability benefits.

If you are recovering from a stroke while struggling with accusations of malingering, there are some real steps you can take to make your situation better.

Two business men in a heated discussion
Per Winbladh / Getty Images

Be Objective

You might be dealing with skepticism from an insurance company, your employer, a government agency, or a benefits payer. Sadly, there are people who fake illness. This affects health insurance costs. It affects employers and disability payers. It also affects doctors who often deal with patients faking illness to get out of responsibility or to obtain unjustified prescriptions for medications.

So be reassured that most likely, requests for verification are routine, and not specifically targeted at you. Don't take it personally.

Be Clear

If you are afraid of getting hurt at work, making an error, or getting confused while driving to work, then explain your fear to your doctor. If you exaggerate or inaccurately convey your health concerns, then when your symptoms and physical findings don't match up with what you are saying, your doctor cannot back up your claims.

Be Specific When Asking for Help

Some large employers have methods in place to assist recovering employees. If you can do some of the assignments required of your job, but not all of them, explain why certain tasks are difficult or dangerous for you. There may be allocated company or government funds that can help you if you want to continue to work, but need some safety aids such as a walker, a ramp or better lighting.

Utilize Rehabilitation and Therapy

When you work with an occupational therapist to regain or re-learn physical and mental skills, your capabilities will be specifically and objectively documented every time. This can help both with improving your skills and with verifying your condition.

Reach Out to Other Survivors

See how other stroke survivors have coped. Learn from their experiences and use their know-how to help you learn how to adjust to your new abilities. You might benefit from joining a support group to learn more about resources and tips for living with stroke.

Talk About the Stress of Feeling Mistrusted

Overall, if you are recovering from a stroke and also dealing with skepticism about your condition, this can certainly add to your emotional suffering and financial burden. Talking with supportive friends or family can help you in many ways. It can give you the opportunity to bounce off your thoughts, providing you with objective feedback and advice from people who can listen to your descriptions of your problems. Of course, the support of having friends to talk to is always helpful, even if they do not know how to offer concrete or objective benefits.

Another Person's Attitude Is Not Your Problem

You might be dealing with skepticism from an acquaintance, a friend or a family member. Keep in mind that some people are insensitive or lack empathy due to a lack of life experience or to delayed emotional maturity. Many unsympathetic people have lived through harsh treatment in their own lives, and having never received support for their own struggles, do not know how to give support.

Final Thoughts

Neurological symptoms are confusing for friends, family, and even co-workers. Unfortunately, this is why insincere people sometimes use neurological symptoms as their mechanism for fraud. Most doctors, especially neurologists, are well trained to easily recognize true neurological abnormalities. While it may take time, your disability from a stroke will get objectively and accurately sorted out, allowing you to get the support you deserve.

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