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What is the term for people who, when they read symptoms of some psychological disorder, start feeling that they have it?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 14 down vote accepted

I can think of hypochondriasis, although the term is not limited to reading about a disease nor is limited to psychological disorders (but any general illness). The word for a person who suffers from hypochondriasis is hypochondriac.

Somatization may also apply in certain cases.

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I think the topic is more related to the nature of suggestibility, and hypochondriacs believe they have good reason (if they just make it up, or decide to apply it because of some remote knowledge, then it becomes a different disorder like Münchausen, for instance.) Though, I'm not saying they are not suggestible, mind you. –  Grant Thomas Aug 14 '11 at 17:40
    
@Mr. Disappointment: point taken, however I am not aware of a specific condition related to reading (and not, say, hearing or seeing a picture) of a disease. –  nico Aug 14 '11 at 17:42
    
Well, to emphasise my point a little: the data source is irrelevant, the suggestibility is. –  Grant Thomas Aug 14 '11 at 17:46
    
@Mr. Disappointment, Hypochondriacs 'become unduly alarmed about any physical symptoms they detect, no matter how minor the symptom may be.' This fits perfectly to what OP seeks - even reading about symptoms will make a hypochondriac anxious. Nico, I prefer the term hypochondria although it seems to decline in use, but you still might want to mention it in the answer. Another interesting term is cyberchondria. –  Unreason Dec 1 '11 at 10:50

Wikipedia defines Medical student's disease as a specific form of hypochondriasis triggered by studying different diseases.

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They are experiencing a "phantom illness."

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