A Frenchman, a German and a Jew walk into a bar. "I'm tired and thirsty," says the Frenchman. "I must have wine." "I'm tired and thirsty," says the German. "I must have beer." "I'm tired and thirsty," says the Jew. "I must have diabetes."
I *cough* can't Describe Hypochondria Here. I, I think I have Rigelian Fever. I can tell because I blew my nose three times today!
This trope is the tendency for people too often, if not outright chronically, think they are coming down with diseases based on vague symptoms.
This is usually Played for Laughs
in fiction, showing these people as whiny, lazy, and/or paranoid. This is especially common among Jews making fun of themselves for being like this
. These are extra funny when the disease in question isn't even real (or it's extinct), even in the work of fiction.
This can be Played for Drama
though, if someone is actually debilitated by this, but it's rare. And in shows with Abusive Parents
or Comedic Sociopathy
, a character's genuine illness may be brusquely dismissed with accusations of this. "Pneumonia, my ass. You're just lazy!"
This can lead to a "Boy who cried 'Wolf'" moment when the hypochondriac actually does
These days, using the internet for self diagnosis has become a new tool for this trope.
A Sickly Neurotic Geek
is more likely to be this than actually sickly.
A Super Trope
to Induced Hypochondria
Compare Terrified of Germs
, Playing Sick
, Munchausen Syndrome
(both when characters know they aren't actually sick), You Don't Want to Catch This
(which is faking an illness for other reasons), Mistaken for Dying
, Jewish Complaining
(which often involves something that might get them sick).
Anime & Manga
- Parodied in One Piece, where Lovable Coward Usopp frequently claims to come down with Better-Not-Do-This-Dangerous-Thing Disease and other variants.
- In Liberty Meadows Leslie the frog is a hypochondriac who diagnoses himself with anything from lead poisoning (from a pencil) to "ovarian cysts", much to Frank's frustration.
- In Three Men in a Boat, the narrator reads a medical textbook and concludes that he has every known disease except housemaid's knee. He rushes to his doctor, who gives him a prescription for a good meal, a long walk, a good night's sleep, and to stop reading medical textbooks.
- Woody Allen is more than likely to play this character.
- This is Zena's problem in Ethan Frome. It is one reason (along with her nagging and complaining) why Ethan wants to leave her.
- This is Colin's biggest issue, in The Secret Garden. He's actually far more healthy than he thinks, but he's heard the servants whisper for most of his life how he has a hunchback and some wasting disease and weak legs that he constantly talks about how he's so ill and can't leave his room. He starts to get over it when Mary has enough, examines his back herself, and verifies that he has no lumps that shouldn't be there.
- Often appears in the Miss Marple novels and short stories. One notable case is in the story, "The Perfect Maid." A character named Emily Skinner claims to be ill and spends all her time lying in on a couch in a dark room while her sister Lavinia waits on her hand and foot. The entire village is convinced that Emily is a hypochondriac, as evidenced by the fact that she never goes to the doctor, figuring that deep down she knows the doctor would tell her that there was nothing wrong with her. It's actually this fact that convinced Miss Marple that Emily wasn't a hypochondriac, because in her experience hypochondriacs love going to the doctor. Indeed, Emily wasn't a hypochondriac, she was a thief, and the whole point of the "spend all day on a couch in a dark room" was to prevent anyone from ever getting a good look at her.
- Fairly common in the period romances of Georgette Heyer, especially among ladies of a certain age.
"Abby, does my aunt like to be ill?"
"Yes, certainly she does. Why not? She has very little to divert her, after all! It makes her the centre of attention, too, and how unkind it would be to grudge it to her! The melancholy truth is, my love, that single females of her age are almost compelled to adopt dangerous diseases, if they wish to be objects of interest." (From Black Sheep)
- Cassie Stephens, the narrator of The Pistachio Prescription by Paula Danziger, has a genuine medical condition (asthma). However, she is also a hypochondriac who thinks that any mild physical complaint is caused by a serious disease. For example, she suspects that a stress-induced stomach ache is an ulcer or botulism, a headache is a brain tumor, and a small blotch on her hand is a "contagious, fatal rash."
- In Parks and Recreation, Chris was born with a blood disease and it was predicted that he would die within days. As an adult, he's a health nut in ridiculously good shape, but becomes a hypochondriac and germaphobe when there's a chance of his becoming sick. This is played for both humor and drama.
- Michael's mom in Burn Notice, is hypochondriac for just the first episode.
- A guy was convinced he was getting diabetes because of his family history, and when he did get sick it turned out to be caused by the "special diet" he made his wife make him. House was much displeased.
- One example that is from the main case and not clinic duty is half of the Death in the Clouds episode.
- Scrubs has a minor recurring hypochondriac. Doctors dread taking his case.
- Star Trek: The Next Generation actually predicted something happening before it was reality: hypochondriacs diagnosing themselves over the internet! In this case, Reg Barclay looking up symptoms for various diseases, including transporter psychosis.
- In Star Trek: Voyager, the EMH wrote a holonovel called Photons be Free which featured characters that were thinly disguised expies of the Voyager crew. When Harry Kim ran the program, he encountered his character, Kymble, who was worrying about the possibility of their decompiling the fictional EMH because there were probably millions of new viruses in the Delta Quadrant and he'd probably end up catching half of them. "Great," grumbled the real Harry Kim, "my character's a hypochondriac."
- Emergency! had a couple of patients like this. At least one turned out to really be sick on one call.
- In one episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Fin Tutuola mentions that John Munch called in sick today. Olivia Benson says, "He's such a hypochondriac. How many times has he had anthrax this week?"
- Argan, the title character in Molière's The Hypochondriac (Le Malade Imaginaire). According to his brother, Argan is actually a very healthy person, since he survived all the needless and harmful medical treatment he got.
- Ironically, Molière (who also plays the main role in most of his works, including this one) was very ill at this time. He collapsed on the scene at the end of a representation, then died at his home a few hours later.
- In Guys and Dolls, Nathan Detroit's fiancee Adelaide is a hypochondriac, as shown in the song "Adelaide's Lament."
- Wonderella once thinks she's come down with bird flu.
- SCP-1025, a medical book that was thought to induce diseases upon anyone who reads it, when in reality it induces extreme hypochondria by proxy. A rare case of the trope not being played entirely for laughs, because the book ends up causing a panic in the site which caused the death of one agent.
- Kyle's east coast cousin in South Park is like this.
- The Disney Junior series Doc McStuffins features a hypochondriac snowman character who worries about such things as getting broken bones (he's a stuffed toy), being wet (he's a snowman) and catching various illnesses that aren't contagious.