April 5, 1996 in Features

‘Dateline’ Looks Seriously At Hypochondria

John Martin New York Times Syndicate

Tune in “Dateline NBC” at 9 for a short but intriguing report on hypochondria, a condition that makes life miserable for an estimated 6 million Americans.

“For so long, hypochondria has been looked upon as a joke,” says producer Keris Salmon, who admits she used a clip from a Woody Allen movie to make that point.

But it’s serious business.

“We look at treatments used on two women - one a drug treatment, Prozac, and the other is something called ‘exposure therapy,’ in which a patient confronts his or her greatest fear,” Salmon said.

One of the women, Carla Cantor, has overcome hypochondria through drug therapy. She’s written about her experience in a recently released book titled “Phantom Illness.”

According to Salmon, researchers are divided on whether hypochondria is a singular condition or one that is always linked to other emotional or psychological problems.

Cantor writes about the connection between her ordeal and the guilt she felt after surviving an auto accident that claimed the life of a best friend.

Cantor believed she was dying of lupus. Despite assurances from doctors, her hypochondria deepened until she was admitted to a psychiatric ward.

The report also points out how hypochondria is a drain on the medical system. Hypochondriacs see doctors four times the average, and they - and their insurance companies - spend 10 to 14 times more money for doctors and medicine.

Recovery is a lifetime challenge, Salmon said.

“I don’t think a hypochondriac, like an alcoholic, believes he or she is cured,” Salmon said. “It’s one day at a time.”


“Due South,” CBS at 8: Ray and Fraser (David Marciano, Paul Gross) are at odds when the altruistic Mountie posts bail for a teen shooting suspect. Former NBA star Isiah Thomas, playing himself, makes a cameo, imparting wisdom on the kid who’s in trouble.

“Sliders,” FOX at 8: There’s always a twist in this imaginative series. The sliders land in a world identical to the one they just left. And now they have a chance to pre-empt a series of murders.

“Nash Bridges,” CBS at 10: A new heroin dealer (Robart Lasardo) makes his mark in San Francisco by killing off the competition. Nash (Don Johnson) gets help from Dominguez (Cheech Marin), who rejoins the force to clear up a pension snafu.

“Homicide: Life on the Street,” NBC at 10: Lewis (Clark Johnson), Kellerman (Reed Diamond) and Brodie (Max Perlich) investigate a murder at an out-of-the-way motel where it seems everyone who lives there is a crime suspect. Once again this down-to-earth drama offers a well-acted portrait of society’s dark side.

Cable Calls

“While You Were Sleeping” (1995), SHO at 8: Sandra Bullock showed her versatility in this romantic comedy that goes only so far before succumbing to its contrived plot and lack of chemistry. Bullock plays a token-booth clerk who pretends to be the fiance of a comatose man (Peter Gallagher) and then falls in love with his brother (Bill Pullman).

“Stage to Screen With Rita Moreno,” AMC at 5 p.m. and 12:30 a.m.: AMC begins a series of Friday night movies adapted from the stage and hosted by Moreno. Tonight it’s “Come Back, Little Sheba” (1952), based on the William Inge play. Shirley Booth won an Oscar and a Tony. Burt Lancaster co-stars as her boozing husband.

“Rosemary’s Baby” (1968), USA at 9: It’s still scary after nearly 30 years. Why? Because you can’t pick up a newspaper or turn on the news today without being confronted by unimaginable evil.

What’s most frightening about Roman Polanski’s classic is that Rosemary (Mia Farrow) never sees what’s going on around her. Think twice before watching it alone.

Talk Time

“Tonight,” NBC at 11:35: Phil Hartman (“NewsRadio”) and singer Steve Earle.

“Late Show With David Letterman,” CBS at 11:35: Actors Anthony Hopkins and Scott Thompson and musical group Pulp.

“Late Night With Conan O’Brien,” NBC at 12:35 a.m.: Comedian David Feldman.

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