Charles Darwin suffered extreme ill-health for most of his working life. The New Encyclopaedia Britannica says, ‘Some of the symptoms—painful flatulence, vomiting, insomnia, palpitations—appeared in force as soon as he began his first transmutation notebook, in 1837. [This is the year after he returned to England from his five-year voyage aboard H.M.S. Beagle.]

Although he was exposed to insects in South America and could possibly have caught Chagas’ or some other tropical disease, a careful analysis of the attacks in the context of his activities points to psychogenic origins.’1 (Psychogenic means originating in the mind or in mental condition.) Other symptoms included ‘nausea, headache … sensitive stomach, spells of faintness, twitching muscles, spinning head, spots before the eyes.’2 Today we would call this an anxiety-caused psychoneurosis.3

So then, what caused this condition of extreme stress in Darwin? What was he so worried about? And how is it relevant to us today?….

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