This paper makes a case for a stronger cultural and narrative approach to economic history. It shows that an analysis of the discourse strategies used to construct and present the narratives of crises can be used to reach a better understanding of economic crises. Starting from the observation that economic crises are frequently portrayed as serious illnesses which undergo different courses and progressions, the author argues that crises should also be viewed as phenomena of communication and perception. These should be examined in order to reveal either repeatedly used or changing linguistic patterns, metaphors and abstract concepts. The analysis therefore focuses on the relationship between economic crises and crisis discourses. Whether the crisis is described as an “imbalance” (in an otherwise fundamentally stable system) or a multi-layered disease (that culminates in death) is not only based on different metaphors and interpretation patterns. It also has an effect on the assessment of the causes and the progression of the crises, and it presents different courses of possible action.