Thursday, June 9, 2016

Degenerative Neurasthenia

Neurasthenia is a term that was first used at least as early as 1829 to label a mechanical weakness of the actual nerves, rather than the more metaphorical "nerves" referred to by George Miller Beard later.

As a psychopathological term, neurasthenia was used by Beard in 1869 to denote a condition with symptoms of fatigue, anxiety, headache, heart palpitations, high blood pressure, neuralgia and depressed mood.

Neurasthenia is currently a diagnosis in the World Health Organization's International Classification of Diseases (and the Chinese Society of Psychiatry's Chinese Classification of Mental Disorders). However, it is no longer included as a diagnosis in the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

Americans were said to be particularly prone to neurasthenia, which resulted in the nickname "Americanitis" (popularized by William James). Another, rarely used, term for neurasthenia is nervosism.
from Wikipedia

Edvard Munch, "Self Portrait with Cigarette" (1895)
Once more I close my eyes.
A violin plays like a blazing fire.
I feel calm yet tears cover my eyes.

The fire burns through my lungs.
I hear the silence of many thoughts.
The concerto ends, I applaud.
Once more I open my eyes.
- Wise eye, "A Cigarette" (3/24/15)

12 comments:

FreeThinke said...

Those of our species who may be counted among so-called "intellectuals" seem overfond of conjuring up special names for conditions common to virtually all humanity.

"Neurasthenia," an early invention of this kind, sounds elegant, erudite, significant, and suggests keen perception and great depth of insight behind those who bandy it about, but in truth all it means may be summed up in a few simple sentences of the following sort:

"She has always been a nervous type. Even as a little girl she never could cope with even mild criticism, or the slightest challenge from her peers. Everything that did not go just her way would send her crying home to put her head in her mother's lap weeping bitter tears."

"Once he became a father, the pressure of increased responsibility found him increasingly tired each day, sullen, listless at work, and resentful of the baby who took too much of his wife's attention away from him."

"Her dreary life as a confirmed Old Maid so increased her store of envy, bitterness and resentment, she eventually developed headaches, a sore back, chronic indigestion, and a determination to get back at life by giving as little as possible to others while using her sad condition to demand more and more of their time and attention."

In my pointedly old-fashioned view of human foibles I have come to believe most-if-not-all of these "diseases" manufactured, then touted on nearly a daily basis by The Excuse Factory –– an outgrowth of modern psychoanalytical practices –– are in truth manifestations of childish egocentrism and an extreme form of selfishness. Too many psychotherapists are manipulative charlatans who have grown fat and rich PREYING on pathetic, confused, unreasonably demanding individuals by promising the false possibility of a "CURE" though a seemingly endless series "on the couch" of exercises in Self-Pity and Resentment of Others.

"SYMPATHY ENERVATES"

~ Oswald Chambers, Scottish theologian

People with symptoms of so-called "neurasthenia" generally don't need coddling, don't need indulgence, don't need medical treatment. Neither do they deserve to be abused or punished. What they need is to follow the stern-but-sage advice of 17th-century poet and theologian, John Donne, who said "I am involved in all mankind ... if a piece of the continent is washed away, Europe is the less ...?"

His meaning ought to be obvious, but for the record I'll dare to say that every one of us, no matter how humble or lacking in talent, COUNTS. That implies we each have a RESPONSIBILITY to do our level best to develop whatever strengths we may have in order to LOVE and SERVE others. The less we fret about our poor, little, put-upon selves, and the more we consider the needs and feelings of others, the more apt we are to experience life as a rewarding, fulfilling adventure, instead of a miserable struggle against insuperable odds.

FreeThinke said...

I do believe the advent of the Machine Age fostered the burgeoning development of "neuroses," " "psychoses," mammoth amounts of discontent based on envy, spite, malice, lust for vengeance, an ever-growing desire to blame and punish "someone" for perceived wrongs, and a morbidly insalubrious hedonism exemplified by irresponsible behavior coupled with unchecked self-indulgence.

convergentsum said...

FreeThinke may be right in some cases, but it's a pity that the genuinely ill have to live with so much suspicion. I wouldn't like to guess what percentage are malingerers, but I expect we all know (perhaps without realising) people who aren't and this widespread attitude does them harm to my knowledge.

I think the point of the special names conjured by intellectuals, is to help them distinguish between closely related phenomena. It's the same reason the eskimos have so many words for "snow", when you and I only need one or two.

On the other hand, my thoughts can't rest too long on the subject of psychiatry without recalling that line from "Accidental Death of an Anarchist" about how the large fee is an essential component of the treatment.

-FJ said...

I suspect that our current state of civilizational "subjectivity" has a lot of influence upon the degree of "neurasthenia" that we all suffer from. As Nietzsche remarked in his Genealogy of Morals (2nd Essay):

Enmity, cruelty, the delight in persecution, in surprises, change, destruction—the turning all these instincts against their own possessors: this is the origin of the "bad conscience." It was man, who, lacking external enemies and obstacles, and imprisoned as he was in the oppressive narrowness and monotony of custom, in his own impatience lacerated, persecuted, gnawed, frightened, and ill-treated himself; it was this animal in the hands of the tamer, which beat itself against the bars of its cage; it was this being who, pining and yearning for that desert home of which it had been deprived, was compelled to create out of its own self, an adventure, a torture-chamber, a hazardous and perilous desert—it was this fool, this homesick and desperate prisoner—who invented the "bad conscience." But thereby he introduced that most grave and sinister illness, from which mankind has not yet recovered, the suffering of man from the disease called man, as the result of a violent breaking from his animal past, the result, as it were, of a spasmodic plunge into a new environment and new conditions of existence, the result of a declaration of war against the old instincts, which up to that time had been the staple of his power, his joy, his formidableness. Let us immediately add that this fact of an animal ego turning against itself, taking part against itself, produced in the world so novel, profound, unheard-of, problematic, inconsistent, and pregnant a phenomenon, that the aspect of the world was radically altered thereby. In sooth, only divine spectators could have appreciated the drama that then began, and whose end baffles conjecture as yet—a drama too subtle, too wonderful, too paradoxical to warrant its undergoing a nonsensical and unheeded performance on some random grotesque planet! Henceforth man is to be counted as one of the most unexpected and sensational lucky shots in the game of the "big baby" of Heracleitus, whether he be called Zeus or Chance—he awakens on his behalf the interest, excitement, hope, almost the confidence, of his being the harbinger and forerunner of something, of man being no end, but only a stage, an interlude, a bridge, a great promise.

-FJ said...

Again, I suspect there's "more" of it today than in the past due to the "proletariatization" of the economy. There are many fewer independent bourgeois "masters" today, and many more dependent "hourly-wage-slaves".

-FJ said...

It's really a shame that you couldn't see the video, FT. The allusion to the "degenerative" civilizational aspects and class-distinctions would perhaps be more readily apparent.

-FJ said...

Who are the REAL authoritarians, Bernie or Trump supporters... ;)

Always On Watch said...

Americans were said to be particularly prone to neurasthenia, which resulted in the nickname "Americanitis" (popularized by William James).

Hmmmm....The "precious little snowflake" syndrome?

FreeThinke said...

More like "The Drama Queen Syndrome," I suspect, AOW.

Since the Machines took over, most Americans find themselves with not enough legitimate work to do. This causes feelings of discontent and ennui (extreme boredom). In turn people become spoiled, petulant, unduly demanding, possibly ill, and eventually hostile.

With no healthy role models in their lives children grow up without a moral compass, without a hopeful vision for their future, without suitable ambition, and with no greater goal than the instant gratification of whatever gross sensual impulses arise.

Is it any wonder then that we have become a morbidly narcissistic society comprised of "factions" that prey on each other?

FreeThinke said...

The late, not-so-great "poet" Sylvia Plath is a prime example of everything I have railed against during this post. As vain, selfish, and worthless a personality as any I've ever seen emerge from "modern" society.

-FJ said...

American workers get home exhausted from either mental or physical labour and then passively vegetate in front of their respective television sets for the remaining 5-6 waking hours of their lives. They've become conditioned to become wholly "Inter-passive" and "addicted" to the "entertainment" shows and adverts directed at them.

This (the media) is what has conditioned them to become what they have become.

Although the Internet promises inter-ACTIVITY, in reality, it merely perpetuates the inter-passive mmedia/ entertainment paradigm described above.

Always On Watch said...

FT,
Interesting that you mention Sylvia Plath. She's become one of those authors whom high school students are encouraged -- or forced -- to read.

Selections by Sylvia Plath also appear on the 2016 redesigned SAT.