Labeling Disease: Fibromyalgia as Hypochondria

Yesterday, we discussed the importance of doctors loving their patients and today I want to turn our eye to the responsibility of the patient in the medical dyad, especially those patients that demand to label their illness — even if one does not exist — for their imagined sickness. It isn’t enough today to just be sick.

We want to always feel special — even in illness — and we achieve that end by demanding labels from the medical profession for what ails us.

There used to be a time when labels like “depressed” or “melancholia” or “feeling down” were cover enough in the world for the sick person to feel their illness was well-defined, manageable, and — most important — worthy of patience and pity from others.

That need to suck the healthy into the imagined illness is a prime conceit in the contempt of illness labeling. Illness labeling is pressed from patient to doctor and it is the doctor’s job to give the illness a name. Insurance companies also demand labels for their pre-existing check boxes, but what if a person isn’t sick with a known disease?

What if a person is suffering from what we used to call “hypochondria” — when someone who is unnaturally anxious about their health demands a label for satiety even though all tests for all known diseases are negative?

What then?

The patient demands a label, the doctor must provide a diagnosis supporting the label so the dyad may continue to thrive and keep the flow of money moving.

The answer to that medical conundrum today is: Fibromyalgia — and here’s the introductory paragraph from the Mayo Clinic describing its effects:

You hurt all over, and you frequently feel exhausted. Even after numerous tests, your doctor can’t seem to find anything specifically wrong with you. If this sounds familiar, you may have Fibromyalgia.

Fibromyalgia is the new hypochondria: A label created to medicate the uneasy masses.

Fibromyalgia provides convenient cover to the weak and encourages pity from the unfairly healthy and the medical community backs the “mistruth in invented labeling” because the process gives them a socket to plug in the fantastical sick in order to check a box on an insurance claim form for reimbursement.

I also believe the Epstein-Barr Virus label was invented for hypochondriacs who didn’t feel “ordinary herpes” was a meaningful enough disease label for them:

Epstein-Barr virus, frequently referred to as EBV, is a member of the herpesvirus family and one of the most common human viruses. The virus occurs worldwide, and most people become infected with EBV sometime during their lives. In the United States, as many as 95% of adults between 35 and 40 years of age have been infected.

Infants become susceptible to EBV as soon as maternal antibody protection (present at birth) disappears. Many children become infected with EBV, and these infections usually cause no symptoms or are indistinguishable from the other mild, brief illnesses of childhood.

The next time you meet someone and are told, with a gleeful voice and joyous expression, they have been “diagnosed” with Fibromyalgia or the Epstein-Barr Virus — smile, turn around, and run the other way because a Pity Party is about to start and you are the invited sucker selected for shoveling the sympathy.