History and Philosophy Of Science | Hypochondria: A Case Study in the History and Philosophy of Medicine
X123 | 16271 | Kyla Dennedy


Kyla Dennedy
X123
Hypochondria: A Case Study in the History and Philosophy of Medicine

Currently hypochondria is defined as “a preoccupation with bodily
functions and fears of acquiring or having a serious disease based
on misinterpretation of physical systems” (The Merck Manual, 17th
edition), but throughout history, the term ‘hypochondria’ has not
always referred to this pathophobia.  The disorder has been referred
to as ‘melancholy’, ‘the vapours’, ‘the spleen’, ‘the English
Malady’, and by a variety of other names.  This course takes a
chronological approach to looking at this disorder as it was
understood at various times over the past 2500 years.  We will begin
with the ancient Greeks, who viewed the disorder as a physical or
physiological one, and end with the 21st-century understanding of
hypochondria which classifies it as a purely mental or psychical
disorder.  A main theme of this course will be attempting to
understand this shift in the aetiology of hypochondria.  In this
course we will look at the entire history of hypochondria, but a
main focus will be on the seventeenth through nineteenth centuries
when the understanding of hypochondria shifted from that of a
physical disorder to a mental one.  This time period is one in which
we see significant advances in philosophical thought, and we will
explore the relationships between the philosophy of this era and the
changing understanding of hypochondria, attempting to determine
whether philosophers played any significant role in the new
understanding and explanation of hypochondria.