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)