Medicine finally has discovered fatigue. Recent articles about various diseases conclude that fatigue has been underrecognized, underdiagnosed, and undertreated. Scholars in the social sciences and humanities have also ignored the phenomenon. As a result, we know little about what it means to live with this condition, especially given its diverse symptoms and causes. Emily K. Abel offers the first history of fatigue, one that is scrupulously researched but also informed by her own experiences as a cancer survivor. Abel reveals how the limits of medicine and the American cultural emphasis on productivity intersect to stigmatize those with fatigue. Without an agreed-upon approach to confirm the problem through medical diagnosis, it is difficult to convince others that it is real. When fatigue limits our ability to work, our society sees us as burdens or worse.
With her engaging and informative style, Abel gives us a synthetic history of fatigue and elucidates how it has been ignored or misunderstood, not only by medical professionals but also by American society as a whole.