Examines the relationship between social identity and the varieties of psychosomatic illness, tracing the interplay of cultural and biological factors in psychosomatic distress and showing why some individuals are more predisposed than others to develop chronic illness.
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Lively, anecdote-filled account of how culture interacts with biology to produce different sets of psychosomatic symptoms in different groups of people. In this companion volume to From Paralysis to Fatigue (1992), which looked at changing fashions in psychosomatic illness, Shorter (History/University of Toronto) focuses on such cultural factors as social class, gender, ethnicity, and age. He considers each in turn, looking initially at psychosomatic behavior in the ``comfortable classes,'' where leisure first permitted invalidism to flower. As for gender differences, women do appear to have more psychosomatic illnesses than men: Shorter's view is that women may find such illness one way of coping with their greater burden of life's unhappiness. The ethnic group Shorter chooses to consider most closely is East European Jewry, but he fails to demonstrate persuasively the influence of ethnicity on psychosomatic illness, since the taint of anti-Semitism, to which he's sensitive, makes many accounts suspect. The author is more convincing when he turns to the factor of age, focusing on anorexia nervosa, which occurs almost exclusively among young females in Western Europe and North America. By putting the disease into historical context, Shorter illustrates how both culture and biology come into play in producing this phenomenon, and he opens up the fascinating issue of how medicine itself shapes psychosomatic illness by conferring legitimacy on certain symptoms. Devotees of medical lore will find this a treasure trove. -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.From Library Journal:
Shorter (history, Univ. of Toronto) postulates that oftentimes psychosomatic illnesses originate not only from the mind but also from an interplay of genetic and cultural factors. As evidence, he presents historical case studies, most of them drawn from the 19th and early 20th centuries, and argues that factors like sex (female), class (middle), ethnicity (East European Jew), and culture (hypochondriacal rich) influence what types of symptoms prevail in different people. Because he notices similar symptoms in certain groups, Shorter believes that culture and biology play a decisive role in determining whether and what kinds of psychosomatic problems may occur. A multitude of tedious and overly detailed examples serve as supporting evidence. Hypochondriacs should enjoy this book, medical professionals may gain some insights from it, but most readers would find it tiresome to plod through.
- Ilse Heidmann Ali, Kyle Community Lib., Tex.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Book Description Free Press, 1993. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # P110029286662
Book Description Free Press. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. 0029286662 New Condition. Bookseller Inventory # NEW6.0007649