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December 19, 1980

Medical Humorphobia

JAMA. 1980;244(24):2753. doi:10.1001/jama.1980.03310240045024

My patient, a noted psychiatrist, looked perturbed. Although his hands were steady and his gaze unswerving, his legs were constantly moving, as if he were treading water. He could hardly sit still.

"Doctor," he said, "is there anything you can do about my restlessness?"

"How long have you been restless?" I asked, ignoring his obviously premature question.

"Ever since my graduation from medical school. Until then I was easygoing and placid. But within a month or so I developed a strong urge to run. The urge became stronger after I specialized in psychiatry. At times it becomes irresistible, compelling me to start running no matter where I happen to be at the time."

"Clearly," I said "you must be running from something you abhor. Do you recall when you first felt the urge?"

"It was at an alumni banquet. The fare was mediocre, the speakers dull, and the chairman kept