Neurosis and Modernity

The Age of Nervousness in Sweden


In late nineteenth-century Sweden, paths to modernity created socio-cultural conditions conducive to the dissemination of the language of nerves. This book shows how neurosis became an extremely contagious diagnosis, and how our modern language of discontent, stress and malaise has a history that goes back to the birth of modern neuroses in the 1880s. Hysteria, neurasthenia, psychoneurosis and other neuroses spread from middle-class women to all segments of the Swedish population, and by the mid-1950s nobody was safe from the medico-cultural virus of neurosis. While offering the first historical analysis of the ways in which neuroses became a national malady in Sweden, this book illustrates and analyses general aspects of social and cultural history during the Age of Nervousness.
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Biographical Note

Petteri Pietikainen, Ph.D. (1999) in History, University of Helsinki, has published extensively on modern medical and intellectual history, including C. G. Jung and the Psychology of the Symbolic Forms (1999) and Alchemists of Human Nature.

Review Quote

"Pietikainen draws on a broad spectrum of historical sources, including psychological, psychiatric and medical journals, minutes of the meetings of medical associations, case records both from private practice and a neurological clinic, medical manuals, textbooks, popular books on neuroses and nerve illnesses, and more. One of the merits of the book is this diversity of sources, and especially the use of clinical records, which are rarely used in this kind of broad historical narrative." Svein Atle Skålevåg, University of Bergen Medical History, Oct 2008, 52 (4), 556-557 pp.

Table of contents

Acknowledgements List of Abbreviations Introduction: The Age of Nervousness PART I. MEDICALISED MODERNITY 1. On the Swedish Path to Modernity 2. How Swedes Became Nervous 3. Weak Nerves, Degeneration and Racial Hygiene: Health Ideology in the Age of Nervousness 4. Masters of Psychomedical Reality: Neurosis and the Medical Profession PART II. FROM THE AGE OF NERVOUSNESS TO THE ERA OF PSYCHOCULTURE 5. Feminity, Sexuality and Childhood: Sources of the Nervous Self 6. Remedies for Nervousness 7. The Culture of Complexes PART III. DOCTORS, PATIENTS AND THE STATE 8. On the Shattered Nerves of Dr Lennmalm’s Private Patients 9. Nervousness with Tears: Patients at the ‘Nerve Clinic’ 10. How to Turn Neurotics into Productive Citizens Conclusion: Neurosis as a Contagious Diagnosis Bibliography Index


All those interested in the history of medicine, psychiatry and psychoanalysis, as well as cultural and intellectual historians of the modern age, sociologists, psychiatrists, psychologists and students of these disciplines.