Sunday Satire or Not? Nostalgia Disorder & the Future of Psychiatric Innovation

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On the blog White Coats & Clever Minds, a medical student methodically details the discovery of “Major Recurrent Nostalgia Disorder,” and how it led to the detection of a chemical correlate in the brain, a novel drug treatment, and entry into the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

“For years, in practices and hospitals across the nation, psychiatrists and family medicine practitioners were noting patients complaining of longing for the past. Upon presentation, some patients were digging up past emotions and feelings to influence their current decision-making skills. Some patients complained about feeling upset about their current situation as compared to ‘glorious’ memories from the past. At a recent psychopharmacology conference, several physicians brought up the possibility of nostalgia as a pathology. The conference became enthralled with the topic. It all made sense now – this behavior was most definitely abnormal.”

The author mentions that “the year is 2020,” indicating that it apparently hasn’t actually happened yet.

Though a 1975 essay by George Rosen in Psychological Medicine states that “nostalgia” is “a psychopathological condition affecting individuals who are uprooted, whose social contacts are fragmented, who are isolated and who feel totally frustrated and alienated, was first described in the 17th century and was a problem of considerable interest to physicians in the 18th and 19th centuries. By the 20th century it seemed to have disappeared, but reappeared under other labels.”

And in a 1992 essay in Advances in Consumer Research titled, “Nostalgia: A Neuropsychiatric Understanding,” psychiatrist Alan R. Hirsch similarly argues that, “Nostalgia exists in the pathological, as well as the normal, states.” Hirsch links “pathological” nostalgia to alcoholics, schizophrenics and abused children.

Nostalgia Disorder: The future of psychiatric innovation (White Coats & Clever Minds, March 5, 2015)

Nostalgia: a Neuropsychiatric Understanding (Association for Consumer Research, 1992)

Rosen, George. “Nostalgia: A ‘forgotten’ Psychological Disorder.” Psychological Medicine 5, no. 04 (November 1975): 340–54. doi:10.1017/S003329170005697X. (Abstract)

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7 COMMENTS

  1. I was hearing about retro currents on the radio today. Some lawyer was talking about alleged copyright infringements. I figure, no pun intended, retro has got to get old someday. Remember ultra-modern? When it does, iconoclasm will have its breather.

    Another thing to think about is how, if nostalgia went back far enough, you’d no longer have many of the “mental disorders” have in the present day. No wonder some psych bigwig would want to make a disorder out of it. Next thing, rather like healthy eating disorder (Orthorexia Nervosa), perhaps they can come up with a disorder for non-nostalgia, too, just to even things out a bit.

  2. Mr Blankenship;

    “perhaps they can come up with a disorder for non-nostalgia, too, just to even things out a bit”

    Wouldn’t doubt it for an instant.

    The DSM IV listed both nicotine dependance and nicotine withdrawal as mental disorders.

    You were nutz if you smoked and nutz if you were trying to quit.

    DSM BILLING CODE 292.0 Nicotine Dependence
    DSM BILLING CODE 305.10 Nicotine Withdrawal