‘Strangers to Ourselves’: How we internalize ‘what’s gone wrong’

“There's this tendency to think of diagnosis as kind of neutral, like it just reflects what exists. And instead of there being this interactive process, where a diagnosis reflects identity. But then someone sees the way that they're classified … and maybe that classification starts to feel as if it's a script that like your life will follow, and it feels like a life sentence,” says Rachel Aviv. Photo by Shutterstock.

When Rachel Aviv was 6 years old, she stopped eating. She was hospitalized and diagnosed with anorexia — the youngest case her psychiatrists had ever seen. She spent weeks in the hospital, eventually started eating again, and went back to school. While she never relapsed, the entire ordeal has had a lasting impact on her life. 

Today, Aviv is a successful journalist as a staff writer for The New Yorker. But as she’s reported on other psychiatric cases for her job, she questioned her own diagnosis and why anorexia didn’t stick with her. In a new book, she explores the narratives surrounding mental disorders, how they shape the identities of people experiencing them, and whether they account for the social, economic, and spiritual aspects that factor into mental health. Her book is “Strangers to Ourselves: Unsettled Minds and the Stories That Make Us.” 



  • Rachel Aviv - staff writer at The New Yorker and author of “Strangers to Ourselves: Unsettled Minds and the Stories That Make Us.”