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Hypochondriac in the English Language

Definition of word hypochondria in dictionary

The actual word hypochondriac was first known in the English language in the late 16th century. It was not because everyone was suddenly afraid of all kinds of diseases. This word comes from Greek roots that mean “under the cartilage of the breastbone”. So actually this word would mean a specific part of the body.

What is interesting is that the upper abdomen was thought to be the place from which melancholy occurred. Today we know that melancholy means a sort of deep sadness. This mix up occurred back in the 16th century because medical ailments of all kinds and also people’s personalities were thought to be regulated by body fluids that were called the four humors – blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile, otherwise known as melancholy.

A person’s mood and health were thought to be influenced by different portions of these fluids. If a person got angry and sullen he or she had too much melancholy. Confusing isn’t it? It gets better. Doctors at that time began referring to melancholy by the term hypochondriac, believing that fluid to be produced in this particular abdominal area. How am I doing on the explanation?

By the 17th century, hypochondriac was a term used for people who suffered from depression and melancholy with no cause. The only cause could have been abdominal pain because it was the abdomen that doctor’s thought melancholy came from. Finally, in the 19th century, the term hypochondriac was used to describe a person who suffered from an illness that had no specific cause or reason.

Today you could say that modern hypochondriacs are those who are very aware of every small pain or change or strange feeling in their bodies and rush to their computers to look up their symptoms on websites like WebMD and then pick up all kinds of ideas, in the end making themselves feel even sicker, though they are perfectly healthy.

If this post has caused you melancholy you can blame it on the author.

  • Question /

    Do you know someone who is a hypochondriac?

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  • Question /

    Do you look for medical advice on the Internet?

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    • I was once searching for something and it kept leading me on to bigger and more interesting things Doc and when I was done I was so deep into the Internet that I could hardly get out. If I remember correctly since this was a long time ago I wound up in a Chinese site with no translation and almost could not back out

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