What I am is an alarmist, which is in the same ballpark as the hypochondriac or, should I say, the same emergency room. Still there is a fundamental difference. I don't experience imaginary maladies — my maladies are real.
The Ancients didn't understand melancholy and despair (AKA depression). They did, however, know its location — in the upper region of the abdomen, naming it hypochondria, from hypo, "under" and chondros, "cartilage of the breastbone."
The mystery deepened in 1839 when hypochondria entered English as "a malady without any identifiably specific cause." Practitioners took it from there. Unable to locate its cause, they then assumed the sickness had no basis in fact, making hypochondriacs (c.1888) of those suffering from imaginary illnesses.
Depression is the hot illness in America today, transformed from something existing only in the mind of a delusional person into that which is chic and treatable.
Swallowing is a long-standing metaphor for the acceptance of ideas. The Medical community in conjunction with the pharmaceutical industry would now have us swallow the idea that depression can be safely and easily treated primarily by the administration of drugs.
When you take your medicine, you accept the consequences of something you have done wrong; that however, does not necessarily mean it will benefit you. The fact that it is disagreeable or unpalatable derives from the unpleasant taste that accompanied most medicines in the past. Now with the compellingly slick advertisements in magazines and on TV pushing drugs, a little bit of sugar helps the medicine go down...in the most delightful way (Mary Poppins, 1964).
Now that's truly depressing. But as Nancy Reagan once reminded us, you can "just say no."
Big Pharma's message is: "Don't do drugs — do OUR drugs."