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.