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Quotations about Hypochondria

It is a most extraordinary thing, but I never read a patent medicine advertisement without being impelled to the conclusion that I am suffering from the particular disease therein dealt in its most virulent form. The diagnosis seems in every case to correspond exactly with all the sensations that I have ever felt. ~Jerome K. Jerome, Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog), 1889

There were lymph glands that might do him in... There were fertile red meadows of epithelial tissue to catch and coddle a cancer cell... There were billions of conscientious body cells oxidating away day and night like dumb animals at their complicated job of keeping him alive and healthy, and every one was a potential traitor and foe. There were so many diseases that it took a truly diseased mind to even think about them as often as he and Hungry Joe did. Hungry Joe collected lists of fatal diseases and arranged them in alphabetical order so that he could put his finger without delay on any one he wanted to worry about. ~Joseph Heller, Catch-22, 1961

A hypochondriac is one who has a pill for everything except what ails him. ~Mignon McLaughlin, The Second Neurotic's Notebook, 1966, © Thomas Paine McLaughlin

In the face of such overwhelming statistical possibilities hypochondria has always seemed to me to be the only rational position to take on life. ~John Diamond, C: Because Cowards Get Cancer Too, 1998

I read the prescription. It ran:
      1 lb. beefsteak, with
      1 pt. bitter beer every 6 hours.
      1 ten-mile walk every morning.
      1 bed at 11 sharp every night.
      And don't stuff up your head with things you don't understand.

I followed the directions, with the happy result... that my life was preserved, and is still going on. ~Jerome K. Jerome, "Hypochondriac's Prescription," Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog), 1889

An imaginary ailment is worse than a disease.  ~Yiddish proverb

The incurable ills are the imaginary ills. ~Marie Dubsky, Freifrau von Ebner-Eschenbach (1830–1916), translated by Mrs Annis Lee Wister, 1882

Of all the cankers of human happiness, none corrodes it with so silent, yet so baneful a tooth, as indolence. Body and mind both unemployed, our being becomes a burthen, and every object about us loathsome, even the dearest. Idleness begets ennui, ennui the hypochrondria, and that a diseased body. No laborious person was ever yet hysterical. ~Thomas Jefferson, letter to Martha Jefferson, 1787

To be always considering "what we should eat, and what we should drink, and wherewithal we should be clothed," in order to avoid the approach of disease, is the most likely means of provoking its attack. A man who is continually feeling his pulse, is never likely to have a good one. If he swallow his food from the same motive as he does his physic, it will neither be enjoyed nor digested so well as if he ate in obedience to the dictates of an uncalculating appetite. The hypochondriac who is in the habit of weighing his meals, will generally find that they lay heavy on his stomach. If he take a walk or ride, with no other view than to pick up health, he will seldom meet it on the road. ~John Reid, M.D., "Occupation," 1818

I didn't come here to take baths, I only came to look around. But first one person, then another began to throw out hints, and pretty soon I was a good deal concerned about myself. One of these goutees here said I had a gouty look about the eye; next a person who has catarrh of the intestines asked me if I didn't notice a dim sort of stomach ache when I sneezed. I hadn't before, but I did seem to notice it then. ~Mark Twain, "An Austrian Health Factory," c. 1892  [Marienbad, Bohemia — Mary's Bath, curative springs —tg]

If a man reflects upon his physical or moral condition, he usually finds himself to be ill. ~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, "Proverbs in Prose," translated by Norbert Guterman

He that is uneasy at every little pain is never without some ache. ~Proverb

When we came home Mrs. Lilly informed us that the aforesaid neighbour's hired boy was supposed to be down with scarlet fever. You can always trust Mrs. Lilly to tell you cheerful things like that. I have a horror of scarlet fever. I couldn't sleep when I went to bed for thinking of it. I tossed and tumbled about, dreaming fearful dreams when I did snooze for a minute; and at three I wakened up with a high fever, a sore throat, and a raging headache. I knew I had scarlet fever; I got up in a panic and hunted up Cousin Emily's 'doctor book' to read up the symptoms. Anne, I had them all. So I went back to bed, and knowing the worst, slept like a top the rest of the night. Though why a top should sleep sounder than anything else I never could understand. But this morning I was quite well... ~L. M. Montgomery, Anne of the Island, 1915  [See, this was a thing even before WebMD. —tg]

WebMD is like one of those choose your own adventure books where the result is always death. ~Internet meme

To some, ill-health is
a way to be important,
others are stoics,
a few fanatics,
who won't feel happy until
they are cut open.
~W. H. Auden, "The Art of Healing," In Memoriam David Protetch, M.D., 1969

It is astonishing how much more anxious people are to lengthen life than to improve it; and as misers often lose large sums of money in attempting to make more, so do hypochondriacs squander large sums of time in search of nostrums by which they vainly hope they may get more time to squander. ~Charles Caleb Colton (1780–1832), Lacon: or, Many Things in Few Words; Addressed to Those Who Think, Vol. II

The surest road to health, say what they will,
Is never to suppose we shall be ill;—
Most of those evils we poor mortals know,
From doctors and imagination flow.
~Charles Churchill (1731–1764), "Night. An Epistle to Robert Lloyd"

Hypochondria is a species of torment which not only makes us unreasonably cross with the things of the present; not only fills us with groundless anxiety on the score of future misfortunes entirely of our own manufacture; but also leads to unmerited self-reproach for what we have done in the past. ~Arthur Schopenhauer (1788–1860), "Further Psychological Observations," 1851, in Studies in Pessimism: A Series of Essays, translated by T. Bailey Saunders, 1893

It is said to be the manner of hypochondriacs to change often their physician... ~William Cullen, First Lines of the Practice of Physic, 1777

What a doctor wants... is practice. He shall have me. He will get more practice out of me than out of seventeen hundred of your ordinary, commonplace patients, with only one or two diseases each. ~Jerome K. Jerome, Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog), 1889  [referring to his hypochondria —tg]

By myself walking,
To myself talking
When as I ruminate
On my untoward fate,
Scarcely seem I
Alone sufficiently,
Black thoughts continually
Crowding my privacy;
They come unbidden
Like foes at a wedding,
Thrusting their faces
In better guests' places,
Peevish and malcontent,
Clownish, impertinent,
Dashing the merriment:
So in like fashions
Dim cogitations
Follow and haunt me,
Striving to daunt me,
In my heart festering,
In my ears whispering...
Night-riding Incubi
Troubling the fantasy,
All dire illusions
Causing confusions;
Figments heretical,
Scruples fantastical,
Doubts diabolical;
Abaddon vexeth me,
Mahu perplexeth me,
Lucifer teareth me—
Jesu! Maria! liberate nos ab his
diris tentationibus Inimici.

~Charles Lamb, "Hypochondriacus"

Georg Christoph Lichtenberg proves to be of a fitful temperament: on one page the hypochondriac, on the next the optimist, now as practical as Franklin, now as whimsical as Lamb, here dwelling devoutly on the sombre music of the Psalms, there as gravely speculating what the mean reading of the barometer may be in Paradise; sceptical, superstitious, cynical and sentimental by turns. ~Norman Alliston, The Reflections of Lichtenberg, 1908

Some maladies are so grave that we die of them; others, though not exactly mortal, are such as may be observed and felt without much study; finally, there are some that are hardly recognizable without a microscope. But then they look perfectly awful. This microscope is — hypochondria. I believe that if men were really to set themselves to study these microscopical diseases, they would have the satisfaction of being ill every day of their lives. ~Georg Christoph Lichtenberg (1742–1799), translated by Norman Alliston, 1908

My hypochondria is really a proficiency in sucking out of every incident of life, whatever it may be, the greatest possible quantity of poison for my own use. ~Georg Christoph Lichtenberg (1742–1799), translated by Henry Hatfield and Franz H. Mautner, in The Lichtenberg Reader, 1959

HYPOCHONDRIAC — A person suffering from one or more real illnesses for which modern medical science has yet to discover a credible diagnosis or treatment. Medical doctors (due to embarrassment at their own incompetence) generally refer hypochondriacs to psychologists or psychiatrists for treatment. This causes depressed emotional states in hypochondriacs upon realization they will never receive legitimate medical treatment for their illness. ~Doctor Leon, "Psychobabble Glossary,", 2001

For those who study the great art of lying in bed there is one emphatic caution to be added. Even for those who can do their work in bed (like journalists), still more for those whose work cannot be done in bed (as, for example, the professional harpooner of whales), it is obvious that the indulgence must be very occasional. But that is not the caution I mean. The caution is this: if you do lie in bed, be sure you do it without any reason or justification at all. I do not speak, of course, of the seriously sick. But if a healthy man lies in bed, let him do it without a rag of excuse; then he will get up a healthy man. If he does it for some secondary hygienic reason, if he has some scientific explanation, he may get up a hypochondriac. ~G. K. Chesterton, "On Lying in Bed," 1909

Scorpios have incredible endurance, though they are inclined to be hypochondriacs or suffer from hard-to-diagnose symptoms when under stress. ~Shaya Weaver, "A Tendency Toward Extremes," Scorpio Personality Profile,, 2014

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published 2005 Dec 4
revised Aug 2019, Mar 2020
last saved 2022 Aug 17