The Illness Narratives: Suffering, Healing, And The Human Condition

Front Cover
Basic Books, Oct 13, 2020 - Medical - 336 pages
From one of America's most celebrated psychiatrists, the book that has taught generations of healers why healing the sick is about more than just diagnosing their illness.

Modern medicine treats sick patients like broken machines -- figure out what is physically wrong, fix it, and send the patient on their way. But humans are not machines. When we are ill, we experience our illness: we become scared, distressed, tired, weary. Our illnesses are not just biological conditions, but human ones.

It was Arthur Kleinman, a Harvard psychiatrist and anthropologist, who saw this truth when most of his fellow doctors did not. Based on decades of clinical experience studying and treating chronic illness, The Illness Narratives makes a case for interpreting the illness experience of patients as a core feature of doctoring.

Before Being Mortal, there was The Illness Narratives. It remains today a prescient and passionate case for bridging the gap between patient and practitioner.


The Meaning of Symptoms and Disorders
The Personal and Social Meanings of Illness
The Vulnerability of Pain and the Pain of Vulnerability
The Pain of Living
The Frustrations of Desire
Weakness and Exhaustion in the United States
Conflicting Explanatory Models in the Care of the Chronically
Coping with Chronic Illness
The Stigma and Shame of Illness
Factitious Illness

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

About the author (2020)

Arthur Kleinman is professor of medical anthropology in the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine and professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. He is also the Esther and Sidney Rabb Professor of Anthropology at Harvard University. A member of the National Academy of Medicine and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Kleinman is the author of numerous books, including The Soul of Care, Patients and Healers, and What Really Matters.

Bibliographic information