Nostalgia defined as “an affectionate feeling you have for the past, especially for a particularly happy time,” was once considered a fatal condition. Edward Shorter, a professor at the University of Toronto, said, "It was once a medical disease that could end fatally."Shorter who teaches the history of medicine and psychiatry, continues, "People could leave home and become servants and then be overcome with homesickness...Three weeks later, they’d be dead.""It wasn’t as common as the common cold, but it certainly did happen," said Shorter."It’s obviously been forgotten about today," he added.
The author of ‘What Nostalgia Was: War, Empire, and the Time of a Deadly Emotion’, Thomas Dodman who is a historian at the University of Columbia said in an interview, "It's a serious thing.” "It's not some sort of pre-scientific, medical joke," he added."It was the second most studied [mental] disease, after hysteria," mentioned Dodman referring to around 80 medical dissertations on the subject."Doctorswere very attentive to the fact that soldiers missed home..They felt very alienated in the army. They grew so miserable and apathetic that they stopped eating and showed signs of clinical depression, and because of lack of hygiene and medicine, they contracted diseases that killed them off," Dodman said. "Nostalgia is more often a predisposing cause to their death – but the doctors definitely thought of it as a potentially fatal disease."
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"This wistful, sentimental love and fondness of the past serves a number of psychological functions," said Tim Wildschut, member of the University of Southampton’s Nostalgia Group and an associate professor of psychology. "It reminds us of experiences, and imbues life with meaning," continued Wildschut, "so you feeling connected and not alone," he added, "you are more or less the same person across time."
"It's through nostalgia that you can simulate being in different circumstances than you actually are…If only briefly."said Wildschut, adding "This suggests nostalgia might be an eloquent method for searching out a state of being as if it were actually occurring, and escaping the unpleasant circumstance you find yourself in."