Taking refuge from modernity: 21st century hermits.
Boyd I, Rubin G, Wessely S. J R Soc Med. 2012 Dec;105(12):523-9. doi: 10.1258/jrsm.2012.120060.
King's College London, Department of Psychological Medicine, Weston Education Centre, London SE5 9RJ, UK.
Idiopathic environmental intolerances, such as 'multiple chemical sensitivity' and 'electrosensitivity,' can drastically affect the quality of life of those affected. A proportion of severely affected patients remove themselves from modern society, to live in isolation away from the purported causal agent of their ill health. This is not a new phenomenon; reports of hermits extend back to the 3(rd) century AD. We conducted a literature review of case reports relating to ancient hermits and modern day reclusion resulting from idiopathic environmental intolerance, in order to explore whether there are similarities between these two groups and whether the symptoms of these 'illnesses of modernity' are simply a present-day way of reaching the end-point of reclusion. Whilst there were some differences between the cases, recurring themes in ancient and modern cases included: dissatisfaction with society, a compulsion to flee, reports of a constant struggle and a feeling of fighting against the establishment. The similarities which exist between the modern-day cases and the historical hermits may provide some insight into the extreme behaviours exhibited by this population. The desire to retreat from society in order to escape from harm has existed for many centuries, but in different guises.
PMID: 23288087 [PubMed - in process]