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Qual Health Res. 2005 Nov;15(9):1231-43.

The complexity of symptoms and meanings involving "nerves" in the brazilian public health system.

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  • 1Social Psychology, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Norte in Natal, Brazil.


The expression "suffering from nerves" is a common complaint among lower income women in Brazil. It is used to express a generalized and usually chronic suffering with a variety of physiological, physical, and psychological symptoms. Public health professionals have trouble with this condition, in which mental and physical factors seem to interact in a complex manner. Empirical evidence comes from broader research developed at a public health unit in a lower income district in the city of Natal in northeastern Brazil. In this article, the authors focus on a 38-year-old married homemaker and mother of two teenagers. This was a longitudinal 14-month study during which they conducted 22 interviews with this woman. Throughout the interviews, the developing dialogic process provided her with room for reflection about her problem and about herself, giving rise to narratives in which the suffering was progressively related to social-structural limitations.

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