on 4 May 2005
This is a very well researched book which is also very easy and pleasant to read. The author has scoured libraries for contemporary accounts of psychosomatic illness, mostly from physicians but sometimes from patients as well.
Shorter describes the history of psychosomatic illness from the first written accounts up to the present day. In doing so he shows how theories have changed over the centuries, and also how the symptoms themselves have changed as patients unconsciously "choose" which symptoms will be believed (although I have my doubts about whether or not this is actually the case).
The book contains many accounts of psychosomatic illness, some of which are quite entertaining (although probably not for the patients themselves).
My only criticism of the book is the lack of science. Shorter doesn't try to give any theories about the nature of psychosomatic illness and seems to think that all psychosomatic symptoms are simply generated by the unconscious mind, which can change them at will. This seems to go against known physiology, which shows that certain psychosomatic reactions (such as the defecation response to fear) are hard-wired into the nervous system and happen in animals as well as humans. Perhaps there are different types of psychosomatic illness with different causes and different physiology, but Shorter doesn't address this. While this isn't a major shortcoming for a book that only professes to discuss the history of psychosomatic illness, Shorter does give the impression of having a mildly negative opinion of the "somatizers" he describes.
Overall, however, it is a very good read and I couldn't put it down. For anyone at all interested in psychosomatic illness this book is a must-have.
on 21 February 2015
Would not waste a penny on this writer and I would give this author zero stars if possible. And here's why....
This month Shorter wrote a smear piece entitled "Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is Back!" for Psychology Today. His vitriolic essay demonstrated a lack of knowledge regarding the content of the IOMs report--that is, the Committee's review of nearly 10,000 research findings--, and his lack of knowledge regarding the politics-- that is, the public effort of patients to shut down the IOM process, which was opposite of his portrayal. It appears that the sole purpose of his incredibly offensive piece was to promote this book.
While he holds himself out to be a historian, he appears instead to be suffering from an undisclosed disorder: Megalomania. Either that or he is projecting a great deal of self hatred.
Whatever the case, it has been bias like his that has led to untold suffering. From patients being abandoned by family and friends, to doctors telling patients their very real physiological illness was in their heads (while ignoring the emerging research), to the lack of funding for research.
Perhaps Shorter could exam the role of false psychological beliefs by "professionals" like himself in creating devastation in the lives of seriously ill patients.
on 18 January 2009
Byron Hyde (author of Missed Diagnoses): So how many patients have you examined?
Ed Shorter: None I'm a historian
I rest my case as to the validity of Shorter's argument, especially given that work into the autonomic nervous system is starting to uncover why patients with complaints such as ME are both "paralysed" AND fatigued (Abnormalities in pH handling by peripheral muscle and potential regulation by the autonomic nervous system in chronic fatigue syndrome
D. E. J. Jones1, K. G. Hollingsworth2, R. Taylor2, A. M. Blamire2, J. L. Newton1,3)
There simply isn't the movement that the title suggests.
The problem really is Shorter's approach is simply not scientific. Shorter to quote one leading expert on ME is a "nobody".