Sick and Tired

An Intimate History of Fatigue

By Emily K. Abel

206 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, notes, index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-6334-0
    Published: April 2021
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-6178-0
    Published: April 2021
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-6179-7
    Published: March 2021
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-6023-1
    Published: March 2021

Studies in Social Medicine

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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.

About the Author

Emily K. Abel is professor emerita of public health and women’s studies at the University of California, Los Angeles, and the author of several books, including Hearts of Wisdom: American Women Caring for Kin, 1850–1940.
For more information about Emily K. Abel, visit the Author Page.


"A personal story made more universal that many readers will be able to identify with, and a well-documented study of the history and current state of the science of fatigue." —Library Journal

"A smart new book. . . . Abel’s work stands out as one of the first to tackle the nature and representation of fatigue itself, presenting an absorbing, incisive cultural history." —Health Rising

"Sick and Tired is not just a medical history, but an account of capitalism and its physical and emotional consequences. These questions are particularly pressing now, as many organisations reconsider the post-pandemic workplace. . . . A convincing model for how to produce meaningful and politically engaged medical histories, stories that have only become more pertinent in the age of Covid-19." —History Today

"Abel brings to light the importance of seeing fatigue as a distinct health condition necessitating direct intervention and empathy for people experiencing the condition." —CHOICE

“Seeley’s work reminds us that, from its origin, the United States has been a multiracial society, a project built by hands of many colors. There was no all-white founding of the nation. In our current fraught political moment, this book is a timely and meticulous documentation of this fact.”—American Indian Culture and Research Journal

“An important and ambitious book that tackles a pervasive but little understood medical problem: chronic fatigue. Emily K. Abel offers a unique and creative blend of history, memoir, and contemporary medical knowledge, one that fills a glaring gap in the literature.”—Susan Cahn, University at Buffalo