The fuzzy boundaries, variable definition, and popularity of neurasthenia rendered it wide open to countless postulations about its aetiology. These theories reflect the scientific thinking of the time and the interest of the particular writer.

The various explanatory models can be grouped as follows.

• Predisposing: genetic, personality.

• Social: industrialization, overwork, complexities of modern civilization.

• Organic: toxins, infections, endocrine imbalance, poor nutrition, toxic effects of damming the libido, hypotony of muscles, electrolyte imbalance, failure to acclimatize.

• Psychological: idleness, avoidance of work, repression of psychic conflicts.

• Mediating mechanisms: weakening of nervous or psychic energy.

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