Great News For Hypochondriacs!

I love the word neurasthenia, and found a nice history of it here.

I discovered it in a dictionary during my late teens, and I remember feeling relieved and somehow vindicated by finding a condition that explained my chronic lethargy, lack of ambition, and vague existential malaise. It was even more exciting than my discovery of the word weltschmerz.

Nobody believes in neurasthenia anymore, except the Chinese. It was omitted by the American Psychiatric Association’s DSM in 1980.

I like Barbara Ehrenreich‘s theory that neurasthenia was caused by Calvinist gloom, and healed by the New Thought, through replacing the “puritanical ‘demand for perpetual effort and self-examination to the point of self-loathing'” with a more hopeful faith. I don’t agree, though. I think that labels have changed, making the diagnosis seem antiquated, like smelling salts.

But there’s a new overarching condition that not only includes the symptoms of neurasthenia, but also aversion to exercize, dizzy spells, migraines, irritble bowel syndrome, anxiety, depression, blurred vision, and – best of all – fibromyalgia:Dysautonomia.

This is the one I’ve been looking for. It covers the entire spectrum of mental and bodily complaints that make one feel defective. I’ll bet it even includes itchy skin, which I sometimes have, and what about dry hair?!

The conversation here about fibromyalgia continues to stir bitter enmity between sufferers and doubters. The douters are inordinately enraged by the diagnosis, regarding it as merely an attempt to get out of working. Personally, I feel that if you can get out of working, go for it. Working is just a big nuisance.

I think we should all move on to Dysautonomia. This is where the action is.

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9 Responses to Great News For Hypochondriacs!

  1. tracey says:

    Ha! That’s what my doctor said… and translation, “shit doesn’t work right, we don’t really know why.” Which I found way better than “Here take all of these pills and see if that helps.” (Followed by “You don’t want to take them? You must be depressed and need a psychiatrist.” yeah, no buddy, I need another doctor.)

    still pissed off

  2. And then there’s the neologism I made up: hypokookria.

  3. Deni says:

    Oh lord, not only dysautonomia, but weltschmerz too???
    I’m afraid to look up hypokookria . . .

  4. Weltschmerz is what I experience after watching a Mad Men marathon. Apparently the 1960s are considered the height of civilisation. After the 60s, it seems things have gone to hell in a handbag. Why can’t people make an effort when they go out in public? Whatever happened to starting the work day with a g & t – how happier would we all be? And why can’t we smoke at our desk anymore – hell, you can’t even smoke in a bar now! It’s uncivilised. Ninety year olds must look at my generation and think youth is wasted on us – what do we do, sit around and google shit, worry tirelessly about our imaginary health problems and judge other people. Pass me my kitten heels and martini please!

  5. annemarie says:

    I love the image you choose for this post!! It’s perfect. I’d be lolling there right now if Eden had not required obedience to God.

  6. patni says:

    i think I suffer from ennui. I fight it, but it bites at my soul.

  7. dexter vandango says:

    This post was particularly wonderfully written. You’ve been energized by the subject of lethargy!

  8. Cricket9 says:

    Neurasthenia is alive and well in Europe – at least last time I looked, about 2 years ago. As in “why the hell do you date this neurasthenic, you could do so much better”.
    Thank you SW for saying it loud – ” if you can get out of working, go for it”. A nice change from the current “work until you are 85 because we got you in a deep shit” propaganda.

  9. Jaimi says:

    This is great! I actually found your blog through the post on fibromyalgia.

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