If you believe the media and the health care establishment (and the "sufferers") you would think that America is currently afflicted by a massive epidemic of mental health diseases and general malaise / systemic diseases, none of which have any evidence-based diagnosis or treatment (other than self-reported).
Do you feel tired? Uninspired? Lazy? Bored, depressed? Low energy? Irritable? Gas or diarrhea or constipation? Mood swings? Fear of social situations? Awkward in conversation? Do you feel like life is so much harder for you that everyone else? Brain in a fog? Overweight? Low sex drive? Can't sleep? Joints ache? Occasional headache? Or are you just a little different than most other people?
.. then you might just be a normal human being, you cry baby (*).
(* = take Placebil, new from CBloomera , a new drug to treat cry baby syndrome)
Things that don't exist :
1. Chronic fatigue. Stop eating sugar and exercise for once in your life. The problem and treatments are basically the same as #2.
Actual CFS synopsis : "In many people with chronic fatigue syndrome, the disorder begins suddenly, often following a flulike infection or an episode of physical or psychological trauma, such as surgery, a traumatic accident or the death of a loved one. In other cases, chronic fatigue syndrome develops gradually." and "The illness can follow a number of common infectious illnesses, such as Lyme disease or infectious mononucleosis, but not all cases are tied to infections." Umm, LOL? We have a positive diagnosis if A and also if "not A". It's literally like a horoscope where the gullible reader can pick one part of it and go "wow, that's just like me! it must be true!".
CFS, like most of these vapor-diseases, has lots of strident "sufferers" who write lots of "expert" articles around the internet. eg. here where one such sufferer decries the "exercise myth" that the "medical establishment" is so insistent is the only actual cure for CFS.
2. Depression. Real clinical depression is a crippling condition. You don't have that. You just have a shitty life and you feel bad about it, that's normal. Again : exercise, maybe meet some new people, get a new job, fucking do something with yourself. Of course you feel like shit eating garbage all the time and never doing anything stimulating; get some will power. Go hiking and get laid (and repeat both twenty times). The internet says : "about 10 percent of Americans over age six now take antidepressants".
2.B. Bipolar / Manic-Depressive. Again if you really have a clinical case of this, it's pretty obvious and actually scary. You don't have that. A certain amount of cyclical up & down in human mood and energy is perfectly normal and doesn't mean you have any condition. Natural human beings don't just feel the same all the time.
(actually I'm surprised that we don't now have drugs for "excessively level mood disorder")
3. Gluten allergies (other than real celiac/coeliac disease). Nonsense. I'm pretty sure the massive increase in peanut allergies is bullshit too. God dammit I miss the honey roasted peanuts on airplanes, shame on you all depriving me of that. Also :
4. Gastro-intestinal disorders in general. Hey guess what, if you eat restaurant or packaged filth and energy drinks all the time, you're stressed out and don't exercise, you cram excessively amounts of food down your throat too fast without chewing, then your stomach will hurt and you'll have various GI problems. Eat some vegetables. Also, a certain amount of farting and stomach pain and unusual poops is perfectly normal and not a medical condition. We're humans who are filthy and occasionally this complex GI system doesn't work great.
4.B. Hypoglycemia. I almost forgot this one and it's actually the one that made my brain start on this whole thread. You're just a little hungry, you don't have hypoglycemia. Waah, I haven't eaten in hours and I feel light headed, I'm so hypoglycemic, no you're fucking not, you have low blood sugar because you haven't eaten. If you eat badly, or eat too much sugar, or haven't eaten in a while, you might feel a little woozy; that is NOT fucking hypoglycemia. Everybody these days seems to be a hypochondriac who wants to ascribe severe medical conditions to their slightest feelings of malaise.
5. ADD/ADHD. Just because you have trouble concentrating or are hyper or whatever doesn't mean you have a condition. Sitting and reading a book with no other stimulation is *hard*, get some will power and do it. Of course if you're bombarded with super high stimulation media like TV and the internet all the time your attention span will go to shit, and if you're fed on a diet of sugar and you're not disciplined when you disrupt class then you will behave badly. It's human, not a condition to medicate.
Almost 10% of American children are diagnosed with ADHD and 90% of ADHD cases are "treated" with stimulants. Hmm just maybe the kids can't sit still because they play video games all day, and then you lock them in a concrete box with flourescent lights and uncomfortable chairs and expect them to just listen quietly while a boring moron teacher makes them memorize vocabulary words for a multiple-choice achievement test. Maybe.
6. An Autism epidemic. Actual real autism does of course exist, but the frequency of that has not actually increased much (and is still super rare; more rare than Down's Syndrome for example). What has increased (and resulted in this autism epidemic scare) is "autism spectrum" disorders (ASD) (which is Asperger and even milder things) which have recently massively multiplied in diagnosis rate. Autism Spectrum is basically "my kid is weird please tell me there's a medical reason for it". Hey not all humans are the same, some of them are not very social and like to focus on one little task all the time, it doesn't mean they have a disease that should be treated.
It vaguely reminds me of the bad old days when someone who was too "artistic" or "flamboyant" (eg. gay) was treated for their "disease". I demand equal rights for nerds that can't communicate and like to fixate on solitary tasks! I have spent many enjoyable hours counting the holes in acoustic ceiling tiles while some teacher or other moron droned on about this or that (the trick is to make a regular grid in your mind and then count the spots within each grid cell), get your fucking drugs away from my brain!
Of course the most harmful thing about the made up autism epidemic is the crazy anti-vaccine movement that sprang out of it. Vaccines are one of the best things that western medicine has going for it (antiseptics and antibiotics probably are the top 2, and vaccines might be #3); they have made this world a massively healthier place, and have very little downside. The vaccine-autism link was debunked almost immediately after one bad study hinted it might exist, but the myth has proved resilient despite its lack of factual basis (no surprise there). (and amusingly they've switched from "mercury is the problem" to "aluminum is the problem" after the vaccine carrier changed).
7. Social Anxiety Disorder. Lol, good one Big Pharma. What's next, Not The Christmas Present I Wanted Disappointment Disorder? Nobody Complimented My Dress At The Party Disorder?
8. Better herbal treatments for these problems. If you are "enlightened" and know that pharmaceutical industry is pushing a lot of toxic crap on us, but you think that you can self-medicate the problem with herbs, you are confused. First of all the whole idea that some ancient peoples or school teachers know better than Science is really depressing. The way that modern medicine works is to extract the active compound from natural herbs, distill them into a sanitary and controllable dosage, and to study the effects of those compounds. But even if you continue to believe in the myth of ancient remedies, the herbal supplement industry is totally unregulated in the US, you have no idea what's actually in those pills, they aren't made to any kind of safety standard, the stuff is total poison (it's almost as bad as buying food that's made in America! lol + tear). Until some actual safety regulations are passed and some large-scale scientific studies are done with controlled doses of the active compounds, these things are just snake oil. You would be way better off with sugar pill placebos, since at least those won't poison you.
8.B. I do think that "alternative medicine" (quotes because not actually medicine) probably treats these conditions better than mainstream medicine, since they at least aren't allowed to write prescriptions so they won't give you toxic brain poison. If patients would actually listen to their alternative medicine doc who told them that they need to get more exercise, eat better, de-stress, sleep better, etc. then they would probably be healthier. But of course that's not what people want, people want magic pills that don't require them to do any work, so they ask for "herbs" or crystals or accupuncture or whatever nonsense that they can just pretend will fix them without them taking any responsibility. While the general idea of holistic medicine is good - that specific complaints are often signs of some larger non-local problem, the actual methodologies they use are at best placebos and at worst quite harmful.
In general, if there's an industry that popped up recently and is now making billions off "cures" for common human complaints, it's probably bullshit. America is basically the only country in the world with a large private for-profit health care industry. Any time a new disorder is dicovered in America and the rest of the world is like "wtf are you talking about we've never diagnosed that", some serious skepticism should be invoked. Particularly when the diagnosis is as vague as it is for things like ASD and ADHD.
Almost all of these conditions were controversial initially, but those voices have largely disappeared. Obviously the health care industry loves these conditions, and so promotes them constantly. But also the people who desperately crave these drugs and thus imagine that they have these conditions become impassioned defenders of their diagnosis and viciously attack any newspaper or other publication that questions the reality of it. The result is that you see these really inane articles where the obvious answer is "this condition does not exist" but they careful avoid that conclusion and instead make up all sorts of far-fetched excuses for the gaps in the data. (one of the funny ones is any time an article looks at the disparity in diagnosis between American and the rest of the world the conclusion is always "zomg the rest of the world is suffering from a mental health crisis and it's going untreated, and they don't even know it! zomg poor people if only they had the wisdom of American medicine to drug them up")
(from what I can tell of what's happening in Europe, it seems that diagnosis of these American Diseases is way up despite the health care establishment initially classifying them as nonsense. (for example in the UK it seems that true "hyperkinetic" disorder was very rare, and ADHD was considered normal behavior (there was no ADHD at all), but that has changed in recent years). The reason appears to be that patient groups hear about the disorder from America and then demand the drugs to fix their problems)
If you're an adult and you choose to take drugs, then fine, knock yourself out (but don't fucking charge my health insurance). What really bothers me is how many children are being fed brain altering chemicals now because "something is wrong with them". The rate of mental illness diagnosis in children has increased by around 40X in the last 20 years. Maybe a tiny tiny fraction of that is real. If you are a parent who is giving your children mind-altering medication, you are abusing your child with dangerous experimental chemicals and perhaps causing permanent damage. Stop it. (if you're a teacher and you encourage parents to medicate their kids, even worse).
(I think in a decent society, all these psyche drugs would be illegal for people under 21 without some kind of special approval. I'm also quite sure that all medical advertisements would be illegal. And there would be some laws about the absurd pharma-funded "studies" that prove whatever result they want to hear. And maybe some laws forbidding the press from reporting on unconfirmed medical research.)
One of the reasons that these issues bother me so much is that I'm quite sure that as a child I could/would have been diagnosed with ASD and/or ADHD and/or any number of other things because I was socially awkward and extremely bored by the slow pace of school and thus occasionally a trouble-maker. I feel very fortunate that I grew up after the dreaded electroshock era but before the dreaded pharmaceutical era; looking back now the 80's seem like a very brief respite from totally quackery mental health treatment that has dominated a century of American life. I suspect that almost every nerd in my industry could have been diagnosed with these "diseases".
I also believe that any "disease" where the primary diagnosis is asking the patient is bullshit. I've been to various pain specialists because of my spinal impingement pain; I know how they lead you, they want to give you drugs, so they hint that you need to say "this is an 8" or "aspirin doesn't help" or whatever you're supposed to say. I also know just how subjective it is; things like "I feel tired" or "I'm in pain" have almost zero meaning because everyone's scale is so different.
Another thing that really bothers me is the way modern America classifies any behavior that's not generic mainstream conformist good behavior as "maladjusted" or something to fix. Hey human beings are different; some people have tempers, some crave attention and like to be the center of the party, some like to be quiet and keep to themselves - those are not conditions that need to be psychoanalyzed or medicated.
A thought that's been tumbling around my head as I wrote this was :
Is the frequency of "disease" constant?
Sort of like the way that humans adjust to any happiness level and find roughly a constant amount to complain about or be unhappy about (see "1st World Problems" ; no matter how much you improve life, people will gripe at roughly the same rate once they acclimate), do we do the same with health?
Like, 500 years ago when people were actually dying all the time from horrible things like leprosy, then minor issues like "gum disease" weren't even considered health problems, it was just being human. Then as more and more of the real diseases get cured, we pick more and more minor things to consider problems. Once even the minor things are cured, then we have to start making stuff up.
Another possibility is that the frequency of disease is proportional to the size of the health care establishment. Basically the demand will be created to match the supply.
There are at least two different factors at play, so both might be true. One factor is that some people like to be sick. They want to be told that the problem with their life is something outside their control, they want someone to "fix" them. This factor would tend to make the rate of disease constant. The other factor is the health care industry wants to do as much treatment as possible, particularly in a system where there is private profit, but health care consumers don't pay for services. That must lead to over-diagnosis.