Illness as Metaphor [Wikipedia]
Illness as Metaphor is a 1978 work of critical theory by Susan Sontag, in which she challenges the victim-blaming in the language often used to describe diseases and those who suffer from them.
Teasing out the similarities between public perspectives on cancer (the paradigmatic disease of the 20th century before the appearance of AIDS), and tuberculosis (the symbolic illness of the 19th century), Sontag shows that both diseases were associated with personal psychological traits. In particular, she says that the metaphors and terms used to describe both syndromes lead to an association between repressed passion and the physical disease itself. She notes the peculiar reversal that «With the modern diseases (once TB, now cancer), the romantic idea that the disease expresses the character is invariably extended to assert that the character causes the disease–because it has not expressed itself. Passion moves inward, striking and blighting the deepest cellular recesses.»
Sontag says that the clearest and most truthful way of thinking about diseases is without recourse to metaphor. She believed that wrapping disease in metaphors discouraged, silenced, and shamed patients. Other writers have disagreed with her, saying that metaphors and other symbolic language help affected people form meaning out of their experiences.