A diagnosis can be a badge of honor—and a sign of your class. Take neurasthenia. First coined in 1869 by George Miller Beard, the middle to upper class manifested the symptoms of neurasthenia first, ... more 
A diagnosis can be a badge of honor—and a sign of your class. Take neurasthenia. First coined in 1869 by George Miller Beard, the middle to upper class manifested the symptoms of neurasthenia first, explains Lisa Held, a Ph.D. candidate in the history and theory of psychology at Canada's York University. The condition had upward of 75 symptoms, which included malaise, poor appetite, weakness in the back and spine, hysteria, insomnia, headache, even uterine displacement or excessive masturbation. Treatment was just as varied, from electricity (supposedly provided by the illustrated brush) to castration.

"It was really considered a disease of modernity," Held explains to Yahoo News, as people had trouble coping with the changing role of women, the move from a rural to an urban culture, and general social upheaval. People as famous as Charles Darwin and Sigmund Freud were considered neurasthenic. "This wasn't seen as something to be ashamed of," Held says. "It was a mark of your class. If you had neurasthenia, it was because you were working so hard."

The condition lasted 30 years and was even exported to Europe, before waning around 1910, partly heaving under its own symptomatic load, partly because when the lower classes started getting it, it really wasn't worth having anymore. It never entirely disappeared but branched out or was subsumed into other illnesses. Some see some elements of neurasthenia in the current condition chronic fatigue syndrome. less 
1 / 1
Yahoo News
Thu, May 9, 2013 4:00 PM EDT