From Paralysis to Fatigue: A History of Psychosomatic Illness in the Modern Era

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9780029286654: From Paralysis to Fatigue: A History of Psychosomatic Illness in the Modern Era

This fascinating history of psychosomatic disorders shows how patients throughout the centuries have produced symptoms in tandem with the cultural shifts of the larger society. Newly popularized diseases such as "chronic fatigue syndrome" and "total allergy syndrome" are only the most recent examples of patients complaining of ailments that express the truths about the culture in which they live.

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Shorter shows how psychosomatic symptoms are related to cultural conditions. In the repressive Victorian period, such symptoms were generally hysteria and paralysis. In the permissive society, they took the form of enervation and languor.

From Library Journal:

Shorter (history, Univ. of Toronto), whose most recent books include Bedside Manners ( LJ 3/1/86) and Women's Bodies (Transaction Pubs., 1990), here catalogs the aches and pains of countless legions from the 18th century to the present. His hypothesis is that "historical eras shape their own symptoms" of illness and that "these various paradigms greatly influenced the way patients presented psychosomatic illness to their doctors." It's a run-on litany of vapors, hysteria, weakness, exhaustion, fatigue, loss of ambition, low vitality, weak spells, neurasthenia, and sometimes just your "garden-variety somatizer such as would be found in any medical practice." The question of to what extent the times and culture influence the socially correct expression of physical and mental ills is not without interest to several scholarly fields, but this reader was plum tuckered out by the end.
- James Swanton, Albert Einstein Coll. of Medicine, New York
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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