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?

  • 3
    It's not hypochondria(c) either (another word with a related meaning :)
    – psmears
    Commented May 5, 2011 at 22:03
  • The two women you describe seem to be very different: The first sounds a bit narcissistic and the second sounds ill.
    – Lambie
    Commented Dec 3, 2021 at 15:15

5 Answers 5


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.


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
  • Is it martyrical?
    – Mitch
    Commented May 6, 2011 at 1:15
  • @Mitch: I haven't heard of martyrical but it seems to fit.
    – MrHen
    Commented May 6, 2011 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
    Commented May 6, 2011 at 13:31
  • Martyrist; automartyr? I think martyrical works well enough.
    – MrHen
    Commented May 6, 2011 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.

  • 1
    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
    Commented Mar 30, 2015 at 21:33
  • The term has now been adopted as a proper noun. Commented May 31 at 10:10

To enjoy poor/bad/miseraable, etc., health:

Dictionary of Americanisms, 2nd ed. 1877 enlarged By John Russell Bartlett

To enjoy.

To enjoy bad health is a whimsical yet by no means uncommon expression.

My husband enjoyed miserable health for a number of years afore he died. — Widow Bedott, p. 14.3.

Pioneer Angel - Page 123 Erwin Bornue

Mrs. Mace, as the saying was in Lowell, enjoyed poor health. Emily knew before she was long in that lady's employ that this was the case. Her mistress delighted in detailing her long list of symptoms to any and all who would listen.

It is still in use today on both sides of the Atlantic.


Valetudarian - noun: a person who is unduly anxious about their health.

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