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‘Idle Devils’ and ‘Household Engineers’: Identity in Chronic Widespread Pain

By Jane C. Richardson, Bie Nio Ong and Julius Sim


Chronic widespread pain, in which pain is experienced in multiple bodily\ud areas, is estimated to affect between 4.7% and 11.2% of the population but\ud little is known about the experiences of this group of people. Previous research\ud on chronic illness has offered insights into the ways in which sufferers attempt\ud to construct new identities or maintain old ones, which may be relevant to the\ud experience of people with chronic widespread pain. This paper is based on\ud ongoing research which uses in-depth interviews, diaries and family member\ud interviews to explore the experiences of this group of people. The paper uses\ud the accounts of two men and their spouses to explore the ways in which key\ud features of chronic widespread pain may influence identity. For Harry, the\ud invisibility of pain raises possible accusations of ‘idleness’ or malingering,\ud leading to attempts to maintain identity as a worker, despite the uncertainties of\ud a chronic condition. Harry attempts to reduce the impact of his illness on his\ud identity, through presenting himself as part of the wider group of the\ud unemployed, leading to additional tensions. In contrast, Duncan creates a new\ud identity as a ‘household engineer’, demonstrating his physical competence and\ud control over aspects of his condition through performance of household chores.\ud He, and his wife, present his pain onset as a positive opportunity to renegotiate\ud their roles within the family. The accounts of Harry and Duncan provide\ud insight into the experiences of living with chronic widespread pain and the\ud different ways in which lost identities can be recreated

Topics: R1, H1
Publisher: University of Huddersfield
Year: 2004
OAI identifier:

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