Potentially Harmful Side-Effects: Medically Unexplained Symptoms, Somatization, and the Insufficient Illness Narrative for Viewers of Mystery Diagnosis

  • Farkas C
  • 27


    Mendeley users who have this article in their library.
  • 2


    Citations of this article.


Illness narrative has often been found to play a positive role in both patients' and providers' efforts to find meaning in the illness experience. However, illness narrative can sometimes become counterproductive, even pathological, particularly in cases of medical mystery--cases wherein biopsychosocial factors blur the distinction between bodily dysfunction and somatizing behavior. In this article, the author draws attention to two examples of medical mystery, the clinical presentation of medically unexplained symptoms, and the popular reality television program Mystery Diagnosis, to demonstrate the potentially harmful effects of illness narrative. The medical mystery's complex narrative structure reflects and tends to reinforce providers' and patients' mistaken assumptions, anxieties, and conflicts in ways which obstruct, rather than facilitate, healing.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Illness narratives
  • Medical humanities
  • Popular culture
  • Reality television
  • Somatization

Get free article suggestions today

Mendeley saves you time finding and organizing research

Sign up here
Already have an account ?Sign in

Find this document


  • Carol Ann Farkas

Cite this document

Choose a citation style from the tabs below

Save time finding and organizing research with Mendeley

Sign up for free