The shame of persistent physical symptoms (PPS) in contemporary narratives by women

Year of award: 2019


  • Katharine Cheston

    Durham University

Project summary

Persistent physical symptoms (PPS) describes a range of symptoms, including seizures, pain and fatigue, for which no cause can currently be identified. PPS are more common in women, many of whom experience shame about their unexplained symptoms.

Shame is a hidden emotion that can be difficult to talk about. Therefore, I will use two complimentary angles to understand how women with PPS experience shame. I will analyse autobiographical literature and conduct interviews with women with PPS. I will compare these narratives to descriptions of PPS in the media and in medical documents to examine potential causes of shame. 

My work will have a positive impact on people with PPS, whose experiences often go unheard. My long-term goal is to alleviate the shame that women with PPS experience by improving healthcare policy and medical education.