Five dramas of illness

Perspect Biol Med. Summer 2007;50(3):379-94. doi: 10.1353/pbm.2007.0027.


First-person narratives of illness experience are dramatic: the narrator, who is also the sufferer, is caught in conflicts of forces that permit understanding more than control. Among the dramas of illness, five occur frequently in autobiographical accounts of illness. These dramas overlap and have varying emphases in different people's stories. They are the drama of genesis (what instigated the illness); the drama of emotion work (what emotional displays are required or prohibited); the drama of fear and loss; the drama of meaning; and finally, the drama of self. This five-drama framework can focus critical and clinical attention on which conflicting forces the ill person is working to reconcile, what makes that work difficult, and how conceiving of one's illness as a drama can be a source of meaning and value.

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease / psychology
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Chronic Disease / psychology
  • Emotions*
  • Fear
  • Humans
  • Narration*