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With an introduction by renowned humor columnist Dave Barry, this exploration of a hypochondriac's life makes a witty foray into medical history, hospitals, and homeopathic medicine, and illustrates how an actual life-threatening illness is the ultimate cure for a health worrier. 50,000 first printing.
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Gene Weingarten (1951-) has been a writer and editor at The Washington Post since 1990. Before that he was a reporter for the Detroit Free Press, an editor at the National Law Journal, and the editor of The Miami Herald's Tropic magazine.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Chapter One: Are You a Hypochondriac?
We must begin by abandoning antiquated, stigmatizing notions about the hypochondriac, a person who imagines himself afflicted by disease. Like alcoholism, hypochondria is not the hypochondriac's "fault," or a moral weakness, but a disease.
To hypochondriacs, I offer reassurance: We are no longer living in an era when every little symptom signaled the onset of some dreadful condition with a goofy name, like "consumption" or "whooping cough" or "St. Vitus's dance," disorders that meant you would spend the remainder of your tragically truncated life drooling out your viscera into slop buckets. Today illnesses have really hip names like "astroblastoma, " and you drool out your viscera into state-of-the-art, hypoallergenic, FDA-approved polypropylene "viscera receptacles."
Just kidding, hypochondriacs! Good Lord, get a grip. Look out the window. Do you see tumbrels in the streets? Nowadays, nearly everything is curable. Magazines are filled with ads for cancer support groups and "empowerment seminars," with pictures of survivors who are reassuring you that one can go on to have a normal, disease-free life. Typically, these people are wearing wigs that fit like yarmulkes.
Do you suffer from hypochondria? We are all susceptible to it -- it is part of our survival instinct, imprinted in our brains from infancy. We are in our crib and our diaper is wet, so we howl and thrash and whimper, and pretty soon someone comes to help us. It is our mom. She coos to us sympathetically and slathers our behind with products that make us smell like the sitting room of a nineteenth-century San Francisco bordello. An important behavioral arc has been established: Complaint brings attention; attention brings relief.
(The more loving and attentive your mom is, the more likely you are to become a hypochondriac. This is simple anthropology. Remember Binti the gorilla, the ape whose maternal instincts were so strong she rescued an injured child? It is a little-known fact that Binti's children are sniveling pantywaists. While the other young zoo gorillas are engaged in ordinary gorilla activities such as pleasuring themselves in front of kindergarten classes and consuming one another's lice, Binti's kids are off in a corner, fretfully examining their armpits for lumps.)
As he leaves infancy, of course, the developing hypochondriac must refine the nature of his tantrums. Adults cannot continue to demand attention by fussing and mewling and smearing their excreta everywhere, unless they are professional athletes. And so the hypochondriac learns the art of suffering in silencecourageous silence, deafening silence, valiant, stolid, stoic, selfless, resolute, gloomy, lip-trembling silence, until you have to strangle him to death with the drawstring of his bathrobe.
It is easy to make fun of hypochondriacs. The hypochondriac is at war with his own body. The ordinary person will notice a slight spastic tugging on his eyelid, that rhythmic twitching we all feel from time to time, and go, "Hmm."
That doesn't happen with the hypochondriac. A hypochondriac would not go "Hmm" unless you told him there was a new fatal disease whose first symptom is the inability to say "Hmm." Then he would say "Hmm" 1,723 times a day until he got laryngitis and could no longer say "Hmm," which would of course constitute proof he is dying.
No, if a hypochondriac gets an eyelid tic, his mind will instantly race through everything he knows about twitching -- health textbooks he has read and articles he has downloaded from arcane medical databases -- and he will eventually focus on the most frightening evidence he can think of, no matter how dubious its authority, such as the scene in the movie Airplane! in which Leslie Nielsen, playing a doctor, describes the symptoms of fatal food poisoning, which begins with twitching, and the pilot, played by Peter Graves, dies farting.
So the hypochondriac will know he has been poisoned. He will call the Poison Control Center.
Hypochondriac: My eyelid is twitching once every six point four seconds.
Poison Control Person: (Pause) Omigod.
Hypochondriac: OMIGOD? (Beatbeatbeatbeatbeatbeatbeat)
Poison Control Person: Quick. You need to prepare an antidote. Do you have any anchovies?
Poison Control Person: OK, now do exactly what I say. Make a drink of mashed anchovies, root beer, and tartar-control toothpaste...
My point is that Poison Control people are shitheads. They love to have their little fun with hypochondriacs. The whole world loves to have its fun with hypochondriacs, and I am frankly tired of it.
Listen, hypochondriacs. This hook will not insult your intelligence by telling you to grow up, that it's all in your mind. It will insult your intelligence in far more sophisticated ways. This book is going to feed your disease, symptom by symptom, chapter by chapter, until -- to use complicated medical terminology -- you are so gorged on your own self-pity you puke it all out. And as everyone knows, puking it all out is a great way to purge the body of toxins. Unless it leads to a rupture of the esophagus, septicemia, peritonitis, febrile dementia, and death.
This book will also describe many rudimentary medical tests that, in the hands of the trained clinician, can be invaluable diagnostic tools. These tests are so simple that you could perform them on yourself, in the privacy of your home. Not that you should. Doctors have spent years studying the proper techniques of physical examination. No reputable writer would encourage untrained persons to engage in self-diagnosis, particularly hypochondriacs, who may be needlessly alarmed. For quick reference I will thumbnail each test with a handy icon.
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Book Description Simon & Schuster, 1998. Hardcover. Condition: New. Seller Inventory # DADAX0684852802
Book Description Simon & Schuster, 1998. Hardcover. Condition: New. Never used!. Seller Inventory # P110684852802
Book Description Simon & Schuster. Hardcover. Condition: New. 0684852802 Dispatched from London. Seller Inventory # Z0684852802ZN
Book Description Simon & Schuster. Hardcover. Condition: New. 0684852802 New Condition. Seller Inventory # NEW7.0263177