Neurasthenia  

From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia

Jump to: navigation, search

Related e

Wikipedia
Wiktionary
Shop


Featured:

Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Enlarge
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Neurasthenia was a term first coined by George Miller Beard in 1869. Beard's definition of "neurasthenia" described a condition with symptoms of fatigue, anxiety, headache, impotence, neuralgia and depression.

Contents

Symptoms

Americans were supposed to be particularly prone to neurasthenia, which resulted in the nickname "Americanitis" (popularized by William James). It was explained as being a result of exhaustion of the central nervous system's energy reserves, which Beard attributed to civilization. Physicians in the Beard school of thought associated neurasthenia with the stresses of urbanization and the pressures placed on the intellectual class by the increasingly competitive business environment. Typically, it was associated with upper class individuals in sedentary employment.

Treatment

Beard, with his partner A.D. Rockwell, advocated first electrotherapy and then increasingly experimental treatments for people with neurasthenia, a position that was controversial. An 1868 review posited that Beard's and Rockwell's grasp of the scientific method was suspect and did not believe their claims to be warranted.

William James suffered from neurasthenia, and was quoted as saying, "I take it that no man is educated who has never dallied with the thought of suicide." (Townsend, 1996).

Diagnosis

From 1869, neurasthenia became a "popular" diagnosis, expanding to include such symptoms as weakness, dizziness and fainting, and a common treatment was the rest cure, especially for women, who were the gender primarily diagnosed with this condition at that time. Recent analysis, however, of data from this period gleaned from the Annual Reports of Queen Square Hospital, London, indicates that the diagnosis was more evenly balanced between the sexes than is commonly thought. Virginia Woolf was known to have been forced to have rest cures, which she describes in her book On Being Ill. Charlotte Perkins Gilman's protagonist in The Yellow Wallpaper also suffers under the auspices of rest cure doctors, much like Gilman herself. Marcel Proust was said to suffer from neurasthenia. To capitalize on this epidemic, the Rexall drug company introduced a medication called 'Americanitis Elixir' which claimed to be a soother for any bouts related to Neurasthenia.

Skepticism

In 1895, Sigmund Freud reviewed electrotherapy and declared it a "pretense treatment." He highlighted the example of Elizabeth von R's note that "the stronger these were the more they seemed to push her own pains into the background,". See also placebo effect.

Nevertheless, neurasthenia was a common diagnosis in World War I - for example, every one of the c.1700 officers processed through the Craiglockhart War Hospital was diagnosed with neurasthenia - but its use declined a decade later.

Today

The modern view holds that the main problem with the neurasthenia diagnosis was that it attempted to group together a wide variety of cases. In recent years, Richard M. Fogoros has posited that perhaps "neurasthenia" was a word that could include some psychiatric conditions, but more importantly, many physiological conditions marginally more understood by the medical community, such as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, and various forms of dysautonomia. He emphasizes that the majority of patients who would have once been diagnosed with neurasthenia have conditions that are "real, honest-to-goodness physiologic (as opposed to psychologic) disorders... and while they can make anybody crazy, they are not caused by craziness." (see reference, below)

See also




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Neurasthenia" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

Personal tools