Dec 4, 2012 by MARCO TORRES
Mathematics Disorder? Every Human Experience Now Progressively Being Labeled As Disease
The medicalization of the world is nothing new and it's escalation is nothing short of a steep increase in the last decade. We have conformed as a society to accept a new label for every deficiency in diet and exercise as well as every imbalance the human body must endure due to toxic overloads through our polluted environment and its interaction with our very existence. The FIND Survey examined what should be classified as a disease and why. The respondents included four relevant stakeholders: laypeople, doctors, nurses and legislators.
“Understanding peoples’ attitudes about whether states of being should be considered diseases can inform social discourse regarding a number of contentious social and health public policy issues,” says Kari Tikkinen, MD, PhD, corresponding author of the FIND Survey.
All Finns think that myocardial infarction, breast cancer, malaria and pneumonia are diseases. People are equally unanimous that wrinkles, grief and homosexuality are not diseases. What about drug addiction or absence of sexual desire? Or erectile dysfunction, infertility or obesity?
“The word disease seems to be as difficult to define as beauty, truth or love, although the concept of disease lies at the heart of medicine,” Tikkinen says. But why is it that the medical community has no hesitation in defining dozens of new diseases every year, most of which have no scientific justification?
Most of these nonsensical medical terminologies and inventions seem to be centered around children being children and a society determined to turn our youngest generations into robots. Intermittent Explosive Disorder, Oppositional Defiant Disorder or what about Mathematics Disorder? Yes, these are all real and officially recognized diagnoses by doctors.
If you've never talked to your doctor about these conditions, it should come as little surprise; they are arguably some of the stranger diagnoses floating around in the medical literature. And although ridiculous to any sane person, many medical professionals say that these disorders are legitimate conditions that often warrant treatment. Yet, this acceptance within the medical community has not quelled debate on the existence of many of these conditions.
"Illness is always a social construct," notes Dr. Nortin Hadler, professor of medicine and microbiology/immunology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and author of the book "Worried Sick: A Prescription for Health in an Overtreated America."
"People have to agree -- both people, in general, and those in the medical community -- that a life experience should be labeled an illness," Hadler says. "For example, the Victorians medicalized orgasm, and we medicalize the lack of it."
The FIND Survey examined, across a wide range of conditions, which should be classified as a disease. The respondents included four relevant stakeholders: laypeople, doctors, nurses and legislators.
Perceptions of disease were surveyed using a questionnaire that listed 60 states of being related to health and well-being, from breast cancer and pneumonia to burnout, grief and wrinkles. Using a 5-point Likert-scale ranging from “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree”, the respondents were asked to evaluate whether states of being should be considered diseases and be funded through public revenue.
The survey was sent to 6,200 Finns: 1,500 doctors, 1,500 nurses, 3,000 laypeople and the 200 members of the Parliament of Finland. The doctors and nurses were randomly selected from the databases of their professional organisations and the laypeople from the Finnish Population Register. A total of 3,280 people responded to the survey (53%).
The 60 states of being presented in this survey included 12 that at least 80 percent of the respondents considered to be diseases. Five states were considered not to be diseases by at least 80 percent of the respondents. The responses to the remainder of the states showed large disagreement whether they should be considered, or not, diseases.
Public funding only for the treatment of “real” diseases
Doctors were the most inclined to consider states of being diseases. Laypeople were the least inclined, and nurses and legislators were in between. The largest discrepencies existed between comparisons within each group.
In all groups, willingness to pay for treatment from public funds was very strongly correlated with the perception of disease (that is, whether respondents regarded a particular state of being as a disease).
Dr. Igor Galynker, director of The Family Center for Bipolar Disorder at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York, says that some psychiatric conditions, in particular, tend to be a target of widespread controversy.
"In psychiatry, part of a disorder is clinically defined and part is societally defined," he says, adding that conditions, such as Attention Deficit Disorder, or ADD, are particularly contentious.
"An ADD diagnosis is very controversial, especially after a recent paper suggested some children with ADD 'grow out' of it at age 25," he says. "That would mean that ADD is a phase in development, rather than a disease. ... It is all fluid."
All children misbehave--it is their nature. The medicalization of these normal behaviors further support ongoing research into the disturbing and ongoing chemical abuse of children by conventional medicine. The prescription of psychiatric drugs to the masses, specifically children, are altering their minds, bodies and entire lives. See A Closer Look At Generation Rx.
Recent proposed changes to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM), the bible of the psychiatric profession childhood temper tantrums, teenage irritability and binge eating as psychiatric disorders.
The DSM is in its fifth edition. It has been criticized for formalizing character traits and emotions into mental conditions and for encouraging their medical treatment, often with drugs that have powerful side effects.
The health conscious communities must bond together to prevent fictitious medical advances and the accompanying flood of new drugs for a range of ills that threaten to "medicalize" every human condition and behavior, according to some experts.
In addition, they say the advent of genetic screening could eventually mean that apparently healthy people will be labeled "sick" decades before an actual diagnosis.
UK genetics researchers say that genetic tests "could drive a new wave" of medicalization. With the exception of a relatively small number of medical conditions directly caused by a single defective gene, genetic screening cannot predict whether a person will develop a disease, note David Melzer, of the University of Cambridge, and Ron Zimmern, of Strangeways Research Laboratory in Cambridge.
With diseases with multiple underlying factors--including major killers like heart disease and cancer--screening for disease-related gene variations can only give people information on their statistical risks, Melzer and Zimmern write.
"Genetic tests for markers that may not result in symptoms for half a century or more could be new examples of a process of premature medicalization--of attaching the 'disease' label before it has been established that prevention or treatment is clearly beneficial," they argue.
In one article, Ray Moynihan, a journalist with Australian Financial Review, and co-authors describe what they see as "informal alliances" among drug companies and some doctors and consumer groups. They argue that drug companies provide medical experts and patient groups offer "victims" to attest to a given condition's severity and draw attention to a new "breakthrough" treatment.
The authors also point to several examples--such as hair loss and excessive shyness--of what can be regarded as normal human conditions that have been made medical conditions because there is a pill available for them.
In another article, Barbara Mintzes of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, argues that prescription-drug advertising to consumers--currently allowed only in the US and New Zealand--is helping to medicalize "normal human experience."
"Relatively healthy people are targeted," she writes, "because of the need for adequate returns on costly advertising campaigns."
Many of these advertising dollars, according to Mintzes, are spent on relatively new, expensive drugs intended for long-term use in large groups of people, such as medications for cholesterol, impotence and anxiety.
And while studies prove these drugs work, the ads for them tend to target a wider audience than the evidence supports, Mintzes said.
“The substantial disagreement we found in classifying of states of being as diseases, and the parallel disagreement regarding the legitimacy of public funding for those that warrant treatment provides insight into the attitudes underlying a number of current high profile social debates. The solutions and management of drug addictions, for example, may vary greatly depending on whether addiction is seen as a disease or as a moral failing.” Tikkinen says.
Marco Torres is a research specialist, writer and consumer advocate for healthy lifestyles. He holds degrees in Public Health and Environmental Science and is a professional speaker on topics such as disease prevention, environmental toxins and health policy.