In an old joke, 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 some beer.” “I’m tired and thirsty,” says the Jew. “I must have diabetes.”
Hypochondria is a staple of Jewish humor, but the neurotic disorder is by no means the exclusive domain of Jews, nor is it necessarily funny. Those who suffer from it are consumed by anxiety over the imagined progression of illness in their bodies and obsessively take note of symptoms real or imagined. It disrupts work and family life. And it taxes the healthcare system, as hypochondriacs seek second, third, fourth, and fifth opinions and demand test after test.
This week Vox Tablet presents the radio documentary “Living With Hypochondria: The Real Costs of Imagined Illness,” written and produced by Karen Brown and first aired on WFCR in New England. It takes an in-depth look at the disorder, from the perspective of those who suffer from it to clinicians studying its impact on individuals, families, and society. [Running time: 28:01.]