New Book Explores the Cultural History of Hypochondria

"A cultural history of hypochondria, from its origins to modern-day concerns like 'cyberchondria.' Crampton's book offers insights into this misunderstood condition and its impact on physical, mental, and emotional well-being."

Salman Khan
New Update
New Book Explores the Cultural History of Hypochondria

New Book Explores the Cultural History of Hypochondria

Caroline Crampton's new book, "A Body Made of Glass: A Cultural History of Hypochondria," delves into the origins and evolution of hypochondria, a condition characterized by excessive worry and anxiety about one's health. Drawing from her own experiences with health anxiety after being diagnosed with and cured of Hodgkin's lymphoma at age 17, Crampton weaves together history, memoir, and literary criticism to make sense of this "invisible and underexplored sickness."

The book traces hypochondria from the earliest medical cases to modern-day concerns, revealing the far-reaching impact of health anxiety on physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Crampton examines how hypochondria has evolved from being seen as a physical condition related to the digestive system to a mental disorder, and how it was once associated with the upper classes and intellectual activity before becoming more prevalent among the working classes as they moved to cities.

At its core, Crampton explains, hypochondria is a "yearning for knowledge " and a never-ending attempt to replace the uncertainty of illness with a definitive explanation. The rise of the internet and easy access to medical information has contributed to the evolution of hypochondria, with people now worrying about conditions like brain tumors or long COVID-19 rather than historical concerns like being made of glass.

Why this matters: Hypochondria is a widespread and rising condition that has a significant impact on individuals' physical, mental, and emotional health. By exploring the cultural history of hypochondria, Crampton's book brings this often misunderstood and stigmatized condition into much-needed focus, offering insights into its origins, evolution, and modern manifestations.

The book also links the rise of quackery and the modern wellness industry to the history of hypochondria, highlighting how increased medical knowledge and contact with healthcare systems has not cured the condition. In fact, the phenomenon of "cyberchondria" - excessive online searching about health concerns - has exacerbated anxiety rather than relieving it. As Crampton notes, "Hypochondria is a uniquely ephemeral condition, one that is widespread but often misunderstood. Through personal stories and cultural perspectives, 'A Body Made of Glass' brings this invisible sickness into focus for the first time."

Key Takeaways

  • Explores the cultural history of hypochondria, a condition of excessive health anxiety.
  • Traces hypochondria's evolution from physical to mental disorder, affecting all classes.
  • Highlights how increased medical knowledge has not cured hypochondria, but exacerbated it.
  • Examines the rise of quackery and the wellness industry in relation to hypochondria.
  • Brings much-needed focus to this widespread yet misunderstood and stigmatized condition.