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hypochondria

[ hahy-puh-kon-dree-uh ]
/ ˌhaɪ pəˈkɒn dri ə /
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noun
Also hy·po·chon·dri·a·sis [hahy-poh-kuhn-drahy-uh-sis]. /ˌhaɪ poʊ kənˈdraɪ ə sɪs/. Psychiatry. an excessive preoccupation with one's health, usually focusing on some particular symptom, as cardiac or gastric problems.
excessive worry or talk about one's health.
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Origin of hypochondria

1555–65; <Late Latin <Greek, neuter plural of hypochóndrios pertaining to the upper abdomen (supposed seat of melancholy), equivalent to hypo-hypo- + chóndr(os) ensiform cartilage + -ios adj. suffix
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2021

ABOUT THIS WORD

What does hypochondria mean?

Hypochondria was once commonly used as the name of the condition involving constantly and excessively worrying about one’s health, believing that one is or is about to become ill when there is really no reason to believe so. The condition was also formerly called hypochondriasis.

A person who worries in this way was once commonly called a hypochondriac.

However, mental health practitioners have largely stopped using the terms hypochondria and hypochondriac in favor of other terms due to such labels being seen as demeaning. People with the condition are now sometimes diagnosed with illness anxiety disorder. The chronic anxiety that the condition involves is often focused on particular ailments—such as heart or stomach pains—and may even be accompanied by physical symptoms.

It’s normal to wonder if you’re sick when you have a cough or a runny nose, but illness anxiety disorder is recognized as a mental disorder when such worrying becomes constant and excessive, especially when there are no symptoms. In these cases, the anxiety often disrupts a person’s daily life.

The words hypochondriac and hypochondria are still often used in a casual way outside of their use by medical and mental health professionals, such as in the context of a person who frequently becomes convinced that minor pains are a sign of a serious health problem. However, using the words in this way can be insensitive and offensive.

Example: Labeling patients as having hypochondria only stigmatized them—it didn’t do anything to help their underlying anxiety.

Where does hypochondria come from?

The first records of the word hypochondria come from in the mid-1500s , with hypochondriac first being recorded around the early 1600s. The terms ultimately come from the Greek hypokhondria, meaning “under the cartilage (of the upper abdomen).”

Early senses of the words hypochondria and hypochondriac were used in reference to the medieval notion that people’s personalities are based on the balance of four different types of elemental fluids in their body, called humors. An excess of one the so-called humors, black bile, was thought to cause a person to be in a state of gloominess and depression known as melancholy. This melancholy was thought to be seated in the upper abdomen. (The related term hypochondrium is still used in anatomy to refer to one of two regions in the abdomen.)

Eventually, hypochondria came to refer to a condition involving frequent complaints about stomach pains and then to the condition of believing that you have illnesses that you don’t actually have.

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What are some other forms related to hypochondria?

  • hypochondriac (noun, adjective)
  • hypochondriacal (adjective)
  • hypochondriacally (adverb)

What are some synonyms for hypochondria?

What are some words that share a root or word element with hypochondria

What are some words that often get used in discussing hypochondria?

How to use hypochondria in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for hypochondria

hypochondria
/ (ˌhaɪpəˈkɒndrɪə) /

noun
chronic abnormal anxiety concerning the state of one's health, even in the absence of any evidence of disease on medical examinationAlso called: hypochondriasis (ˌhaɪpəʊkɒnˈdraɪəsɪs)

Word Origin for hypochondria

C18: from Late Latin: the abdomen, supposedly the seat of melancholy, from Greek hupokhondria, from hupokhondrios of the upper abdomen, from hypo- + khondros cartilage
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Medical definitions for hypochondria

hypochondria
[ hī′pə-kŏndrē-ə ]

n.
The conviction that one is or is likely to become ill, often accompanied by physical symptoms, when illness is neither present nor likely.hypochondriasis
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Scientific definitions for hypochondria

hypochondria
[ hī′pə-kŏndrē-ə ]

A psychiatric disorder characterized by the conviction that one is ill or soon to become ill, often accompanied by physical symptoms, when illness is neither present nor likely.♦ A person with hypochondria is called a hypochondriac.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
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