Visualizing symptoms, sensations and stories: Trends in how people picture their health

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Imagine a loved one is experiencing extreme pain. Beyond body language, how do they talk about what’s happening? When they tell you how they feel, the language often becomes visual and visceral. With pain, metaphors abound:

Stabbing pain
Like a hot poker
On fire

We’ve heard these terms since we were children, spoken by the adults around us to describe their lower back pain, their sciatica, their plantar fasciitis. Which makes one wonder — if we have this somewhat shared vocabulary for expressing pain and symptoms, could there be a shared ‘visual’ vocabulary for symptoms and sensations?


Katie McCurdy