Journals Higher Education
Important OUP's Response to COVID-19 Learn more



Published: 29 June 2012

304 Pages

6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

ISBN: 9780199892365

Also Available As:


Also Available In:

Bookseller Code (05)

A Condition of Doubt

The Meanings of Hypochondria

Catherine Belling

  • The book applies the methods of humanities scholarship, in particular narrative and literary theory, to the texts of medicine and psychiatry as well as to a wide range of popular culture accounts of hypochondria, both by hypochondriacs and by those who resent or make fun of them.
  • Belling argues that, since the rise of bioethics (producing patient autonomy and informed consent) in the 1970s, patients have become postmodern, but medicine has remained largely modern. Hypochondria is a sign of the tension between these two paradigms.
  • As Belling demonstrates, it is not irrational to be a hypochondriac: because we all die eventually, and most of us get sick first. But it is also not adaptive; we need to ignore some truths in order to function. This raises questions about the positivism and rationalism of science-based medicine, where a patient's resistance to reassurance is understood as irrational, as a sign of mental illness, and often as a threat to the physician.

Also of Interest