Pathology of Dickinson

Scanlon has mentioned a few times that people love to invent diseases and conditions that Emily Dickinson suffered from, especially when formulating theories as to the reasons behind her seclusion–but we haven’t discussed many of them in depth. So, I took to the magic of the internet to find the possible theories that exist. Wanting only reliable sources, I used JSTOR (<3) and Academic Search Complete to find scholarly journal articles, presumably more accurate, or at least more vetted, sources (links are included if you want to use these for a CC or final paper… heck no I did not read them all). The results were astounding. According to different writers, the possibilities include:


–A mental breakdown and resulting psychosis, triggered by (at least one) panic attack (evidenced by the poem “I had a terror…” here

–Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (which apparently several other figures from history shared) here

–Anorexia nervosa here

–Tuberculosis here

–General nervous disorders here

–Ready?  Seasonal affective disorder, bipolar disorder, and agoraphobia, ALL here

–This one address the PROBABLIES:  the eye illness and her final kidney? disease in a medical light here


I’m sure there are more, but that’s all I had time for. Any look particularly striking?

–Sarah Smethurst