How was the diagnosis of Neurasthenia tied to the advent of Industrialization?
The Author through the introduction and the first two chapters describes what a country that had been used to an agrarian lifestyle that moved at a pace that only can be described as natural power and speed might feel if they suddenly felt everything changing as far as pace and communication, and the speed that it is dispatched. The agriculture base that they had long lived under was changing towards an urban life that was represented by monotonous factories and offices that were restricted to being indoors. Certainly the pace had quickened and the pressures of modernity and industrialization influenced the sense of anxiety that came with these sudden changes. Certainly that anxiety would show in the way that people saw their lives change, and they may be overwhelmed at times. There also was a sense that this new lifestyle was usurping control from the individual. The author shows that there was a wish to describe this loss and confusion that showed up in the people’s everyday life. When the diagnosis was explained with its broad parameters of symptoms the people recognized themselves in the diagnosis. There was a lot of stress related to this new speed, and pressure to keep up. While in many ways they welcomed new technologies at the same time there was evidence that it was not all good, as between the 1870s and the 1890s there were several depressions that affected many and those that were new urbanites did not have the security of the farm. The author in these first few chapters shows how the medical community and the pharmaceuticals of the day started putting everybody in this class and were perfectly willing to make as much off of it as they could.
As he goes into the rest of the book he seems to buy into neurasthenia as a real diagnosis, but at the same time realizes that it was perhaps a catchall for anything that might be going on. He describes several case studies that seem to be a direct effect of the new modernization, but at the same time he discusses how in a sense this was a check on the new modernity. Something that caused a way to look at the price of a new industrial world. I think the author does not completely buy into neurasthenia he does see that over this time day-to-day life changed and this was a way to learn how to adapt to it.
Did neurasthenia affect men and women differently?
It certainly did according to the evidence that this author got out of it, although from what I could sense for the women it was something that had been below the surface for much longer. Women’s problems had been there for much longer and may have been coaxed to the surface by the suffrage movement allowing them to speak up. It seems that the women were affected by the fact that they saw their role as homemakers being without intellectual stimulation, and in fact they were caught in a position of day after day working nonstop in keeping up the home and taking care of children. The monotony of their day-to-day existence caused them to ask what more is there that they were not getting out of life.It seems to me that the suffrage movement brought this to the surface much more. Even wealthy women were somewhat caught in this cycle of taking care of the home, without something to challenge them more. In a sense there is still some of this with us.
With men it was a c completely different thing but also part of the roles that men were expected to play in society. That role of being the provider and protector of their families. With the new Industrialization often they had to deal with the new limits of industrialization, where they often had no control over their lives. There jobs often were dependant on a new structure that was out of their control. With the many depressions came layoffs and cutbacks that they had no say in. This frustration caused many men to struggle with their role as defined by gender as the provider of their families
What is the legacy of neurasthenia in today’s world?
This in the end really made me think about how we look at all mental diseases that crop up in today’s world. Prior to the wide-ranging diagnosis of neurasthenia we ignored the fact that the mind could have such impact on our day-to-day life. If things were not going well for you , you had to just deal with it on your own. After neurasthenia , and especially after doctors worked through the quackery of early treatment they came up with treatments that really did work. At first it started with rest and diets that seemed to address the issue as a nutritional issue, they came to start letting in the new sciences of Freud and others working in the issue of psychiatric treatment and the new ways to use this new science. As this has evolved it has been used for many things today that back then would be under the umbrella of neurasthenia. Although I am not sure how successful this science was back then , we use psychological therapy often now to great success, or at least as a great crutch. It is ironic that it was some of the this actually started through some that were not among the mainstream churches of the day that led to the idea of looking within rather than looking for help through the medicine of the day. As much as I hate to credit churches with doing anything positive, it seemed that this guidance was the turning point on getting a handle on neurasthenia. I also think that the next step, or a simultaneous step of leading a strenuous life also stays with us today, that working hard is its own therapy for regaining control of outside influences that seem to encourage lethargy.