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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?

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

2 Answers 2

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.

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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
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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

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