Sign up ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

For example, a couple of years ago I talked to this woman who had lupus, and she would often tell stories of the all the gnarly surgeries and medications she had to take to control her disease. I rather got the impression at the time she enjoyed the attention it brought her; not necessarily in a totally overbearing way, but more subtle.

Similarly, just today at the barber's, I overheard another woman talking to a hairdresser about some disease she had, which required her to take "experimental vaccines" and "all sorts of red and blue pills"; she informed the guy that although she looked outwardly normal, she was felt terrible, and was sick all the time from the medication. She gave an "I'm chugging through it" half-smile as she talked.

Note that this isn't Munchausen's, which is the first word to come many people's minds — neither of them ever gave me the impression they weren't truly sick. It's more they had an enthusiasm for being ill and sharing that news that most people don't have. Is there a good word for this kind of person?

share|improve this question
It's not hypochondria(c) either (another word with a related meaning :) –  psmears May 5 '11 at 22:03

3 Answers 3

up vote 6 down vote accepted

How about pathophilia or nosophilia. I have found several definitions online for both words, but "a desire to be sick" seems to be one of them.

share|improve this answer

A few close hits:

  • masochist — deriving pleasure and gratification from suffering pain and humiliation upon the self
  • martyr complex — a person who has a martyr complex desires the feeling of being a martyr for his/her own sake, seeking out suffering or persecution because it feeds a psychological need
  • Histrionic personality disorder — a personality disorder characterized by a pattern of excessive emotionality and attention-seeking

But really I find these more apt, even if they don't really explicitly imply anything about illness:

  • show off
  • braggart
  • egomaniac
  • boaster
share|improve this answer
Is it martyrical? –  Mitch May 6 '11 at 1:15
@Mitch: I haven't heard of martyrical but it seems to fit. –  MrHen May 6 '11 at 13:11
I made it up? Martyrious? Anyway, the thing that starts with an 'm' sounds the absolute best to me, but I can't think of what should be an obvious adjective for it. –  Mitch May 6 '11 at 13:31
Martyrist; automartyr? I think martyrical works well enough. –  MrHen May 6 '11 at 14:04

As someone who has a chronic condition that regularly inflicts debilitating pain for many hours at a time, and who possibly at times might sound like she is bragging/reveling in her ordeal, I really, really want to answer this question in a meaningful way.

I propose, "trauma queen" (this only works for the feminine, but the examples you provided were female so maybe it's apt).

People tell themselves little stories about their lives to make sense of them, or to cope with them at all. Sometimes that involves portraying oneself as being involved in a pitched battle against a terrifying enemy, or other such dramatic symbolism. There's perhaps an element of the drama queen in this, although that is too general a term, I know. Hence, trauma queen.

Please believe that I do not for a moment enjoy my malady. But having it, I suppose I do what I can to maximize its value. Is it an attempt, after the fact, to exert some control or be less of a victim? I don't know. But I'm really glad you asked this question, because some notion that I am guilty of it has dogged me for some time without my really being able to put a finger on what it was.

If there is an already existing term (one would think Dickens or Austin would have coined something, wouldn't one?) I can't think of it.

share|improve this answer
Also, some people just like to talk a lot, and for someone with a debilitating disease, there's quite a bit to talk about. So (more for the OP than this), it may not be a 'thing', just two things, loquaciousness and complicated medical problem, that happened to go together. –  Mitch Mar 30 at 21:33

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.