James Leroy Wilson's blog

Monday, June 05, 2006

Sickness or Health

I may have already quoted it in a previous writing, but I recall former National Review columnist Florence King noting years ago that the opposite of a hypochondriac, someone obsessed with being sick, is a hypochondriac, someone obsessed with being well. That is, the word “hypochondriac” is its own antonym or opposite. For a long time I thought this was a good insight into the paradox and irony of everyday life, but no longer. It dawned on me that a hypochondriac is obsessed with staying in bed, whereas someone “obsessed with being well” is a supposed Heath Nut who concentrates on diet and exercise.

While I admire Florence King and give her credit for being clever, that doesn’t mean she’s always right. If pressed, I think most of us would rather have “Health Nuts” as friends, rather than hypochondriacs. Health Nuts may be annoying, but hypochondriacs are depressing and often infuriating. At the very least, Health Nuts don’t make excuses, and they’re ready and available if you need help moving the furniture.

In other words, it is better to be oriented to health and life rather than illness and death.


  1. Wouldn't the opposite of hypochondriac be hyperchondriac, just as hyperactive's opposite is hypoactive?

  2. Anonymous9:45 PM PDT

    no. hypochondriac means below the breast bone because it was originally used to describe unidentifiable stomach pains. greeks attributed this to the spleen, which is below the breast bone. it was used as the male form of hysteria. some say the antonym is unneurotic.