Neurasthenia and autonomic imbalance as minor diagnoses: comparison, concept and implications

Jia shin Chen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A new term, autonomic imbalance (自律神經失調 or AI), which refers to a wide variety of physical and mental symptoms that are medically unexplained, has recently emerged in Taiwan. Many people compared this condition to neurasthenia, a now obsolete diagnosis. Whether neurasthenia and AI are medically the same or merely similar is a debate that is better left to clinicians; however, this article endeavours to explore the significance of the comparability in terms of socio-cultural theory of health. With Deleuze and Guattari’s notion of minor literature as reference, the objectives of this paper are as follows: to address how and why neurasthenia and AI should be treated as ‘minor diagnoses’ and consequently expose the limitations of current clinical medicine; to provide and discuss reasons why AI can be seen as a reincarnated form of neurasthenia; and to further elaborate how this approach may elevate inquiries on the varieties of medically unexplained symptoms to highlight the bodies that suffer without a legitimate name.

Original languageEnglish
JournalSocial Theory and Health
StateAccepted/In press - 2022


  • Autonomic imbalance
  • Medically unexplained symptom
  • Minor diagnosis
  • Minor literature
  • Neurasthenia


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