Illness identity, a composite term linking two complex health communication concepts, is a culturally embedded and discursively negotiated display or categorization. To conceive of identity in communication terms invites a shift from psychology's construction of the self as coherent and contained “within” the individual. Instead, the term illness identity encourages consideration of how illness becomes a means for constructing identity, pointing to the ways in which social members shape, give meaning to, and define what it means to be “ill,” “healthy,” “unwell,” or “well.” An illness identity is thus both a tool for self-accounting and a window on individual and collective experiences of illness, revealing how these are situated in matrices of social interaction, webs of relationships both immediate and mediated, and institutional, cultural, and ...

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