In 1895 Sigmund Freud and Josef Breuer published one of medicine’s greatest milestone books; it’s called “Studies In Hysteria”. In it they showed that disease can be induced by mental states and by reversing these mental patterns, cures took place.
It was a very shocking book because it stated plainly that men could suffer from hysterical illness and, as everyone knows, hysteria is really only caused by a floating uterus (that’s what hysteria means; that’s why it sounds like hysterectomy).
OK, I’m joking—but they weren’t back then; that’s what Freud and Breuer faced at the time. Eventually Breuer publicly disavowed his colleague. But Freud stayed the ground and became one of the greatest and most compassionate figures in medicine (even if a lot of his stuff is just plain wrong). He’s a household name; Breuer is virtually forgotten.
As a result of the historic Freud/Breuer collaboration, the concept of psychosomatic disease was born.
It exists, unquestionably.
But it’s also a great curse. Because when doctors are incompetent and can’t diagnose or treat successfully, they blame the patient and say “It’s all in your head”.
They never say “We’re crap doctors, we can’t fix you,” just “It’s your own fault”.
To them, the fact that lab work comes back negative means the patient is a faker. They won’t even CONSIDER that it might mean they are doing the wrong tests, or worthless tests!
I met this in the 1980s, when patients would break down and cry and say nobody ever listened to them or believed them before coming to me. All they had met was a wall of dismissive judgmental cant that blamed them for their own condition.
Listen, I get incensed about this because even if the patient is faking it, he or she has a distress need to do that. A patient so distraught that he or she fakes symptoms needs help! Duh!
But of course my patients were not faking. They had food allergies. Once the cause was known, he or she got well. Totally well in most instances; they were not malingerers. So much for “wanting to be sick as a solution to life”.
The point is that psychosomatic illness has episodes of vogue. There was a craze for it in the 1960s; even the brilliant psychiatrist R. D. Laing helped push this illusion forward.
It’s back again, big time.
Doctors are now “officially” diagnosing patients with medically unexplained symptoms as not really sick but screwed up.
A paper, published in 2007, warned (unintentionally) of what was to come. [J Gen Intern Med. 2007 May; 22(5): 685–691].
According to the authors: “Patients with medically unexplained symptoms (MUS) have little or no demonstrable disease explanation for the symptoms and co-morbid psychiatric disorders are frequent.”
With this in mainstream literature, the government will save billions, as looking at other causes will not be permitted. This is an easy way to practice medicine: if you have not heard about it in your medical training, it simply does not exist.
Diseases like Lyme and Chronic Fatigue patients can be simply be labeled MUS and require no treatment. So there is no need to keep up on the newest clinical insights. Patients who fit this MUS category will be lumped into NO ORGANIC DISEASE PRESENT category.
No discussion of where doing the wrong lab work will fail to find any organic disease.
Even more ominously, the article goes on: “Although our disease-based diagnosis system dictates excluding organic disease to diagnose MUS, much exclusion can occur clinically without recourse to laboratory or consultative evaluation because the majority of patients are mild. Only the less common, “difficult” patients with moderate and severe MUS require investigation to exclude organic diseases. By explicitly diagnosing and labeling all severity levels of MUS, we propose that this diagnostic approach cannot only facilitate effective treatment but also reduce the cost and morbidity from unnecessary interventions.”
So a doctor only has to suspect MUS and he/she can skip most of the lab work and save money, because we know, “It’s all in their head”.
I fear for this growing class of patient. Because as medicine shoves its head further up the place where it’s dark all day, there is a growing incompetence in diagnosing anything like environmental, nutritional and lifestyle diseases. You know how ignorant mainstream doctors are? They couldn’t recognize an iodine or B3 deficiency if it bit them in the butt!
Such a dismissive diagnosis could only be just and compassionate if doctors had the range of knowledge and skills to diagnose any kind of illness. They don’t.
According to the cited article, only 16% of MUS patients have any kind of organic illness. To me that’s another way of saying medicine is 84% useless!
If they even just checked for food allergies, that 16% would jump to around 50% had organic disease; add Candida, heavy metal toxicity, parasites and stealth viruses and that deplorable 16% would rise to around 98%.
But modern medicine isn’t ready to embrace the real meaning of healing, love and compassion.
Consider the words of Jean-Marie Charcot (1825-1893), the most beautiful in all of medicine (I used to carry them around on a card); the duty of a physician:
- To cure sometimes
- To relieve often
- To comfort always.
*Charcot’s name is mis-spelled on 10,000s of websites (all copying each other, calling it “research”) as Jean-Martin.
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