A Body Made of Glass: A History of Hypochondria

Caroline Crampton

£16.99

A fascinating and revelatory cultural history of hypochondria, from Hippocrates to wellness influencers – for fans of Andrew Solomon and Siddhartha Mukherjee.

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ISBN: 9781783789054 Category: Tags: ,

Description

“There is a twilight zone between illness and health, and thats where I dwell”

An ache, a pain, a mysterious lump, a strange sensation in some part of your body, the feeling that something is not right. The fear that something is, in fact, very wrong. These could be symptoms of illness. But they could also be the symptoms of hypochondria – an enigmatic condition that might be physiological or psychological or both.

In this landmark book, Caroline Crampton tells the story of hypochondria, beginning in the age of Hippocrates and taking us right through to the wellness industry today. Along the way, we encounter successive generations of doctors positing new theories, as well as quacks selling spurious cure-alls to the desperate. And we meet those who have suffered with conditions both real and imagined, including Moliere, Darwin, Woolf, Freud, Larkin, and Proust whose symptoms and sensitivities gradually narrowed his life to the space of his cork-lined bedroom. Crampton also examines the gendered nature of the medical response, the financial and social factors at play, and the ways in which modern technology simultaneously feeds our fears and holds out the promise of relief.

Drawing on Crampton’s own experience of surviving a life-threatening disease only to find herself beset by almost constant anxiety about her health, A Body Made of Glass explores part of the landscape of illness that most memoirs don’t reach: the territory beyond survival or cure, where body and mind seem locked in a strange and exhausting kind of dance. The result is both a fascinating cultural history of hypochondria and a moving account of what it means to live with this invisible, elusive and increasingly wide-spread condition.

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