Some observers think that the American Psychiatric Association (APA) might be planning to label the chronic pain condition fibromyalgia a mental illness. This could seriously affect those who suffer from the disease because it could give health insurers an excuse not to pay for its treatment.
Fibromyalgia is a mysterious condition in which people, mostly women, suffer from pain all over the body. Doctors don’t know exactly what causes it, but they think it has something to do with the way that the brain and the nervous system process pain signals.
Doctors believe that in people with the condition, the pain gets magnified so that they feel more pain. In other words, the nervous system becomes too sensitive.
Mental or Physical
The problem is that fibromyalgia is similar to some psychosomatic conditions, but it is apparently a physical problem. The disease often develops after injuries, so it might be caused by damage to the brain or nervous system.
Some doctors have suggested that fibromyalgia is related to depression or is a type of depression. That would make it a mental illness, and those who suffer from it would have to take psychiatric drugs. Yet there is evidence to suggest that the condition is caused by a malfunction of the nervous system.
The APA’s own journal recently published an article that debunks the idea that fibromyalgia is a kind of depression. Instead, the current belief is that depression can be a symptom of it. A problem is that depression and other mental illnesses may actually be caused by brain or nervous system damage.
The recent article in the publication Brain states that fibromyalgia might originate in the small nerves. The article was based on research by German scientists at the University of Warzburg.
Change in the Way it is Diagnosed
Nurse and educator Celeste Cooper is concerned about the most recent edition of the APA’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental of Disorders (or DSM-5). That’s the book that tells psychologists and psychiatrists what is a mental illness and what isn’t.
Proposed changes to the manual would require that pain and other symptoms of fibromyalgia be unexamined to be diagnosed as the problem. It also contains criteria that could be used to diagnose as many of 40 percent of the people with fibromyalgia with mental illness.
The danger here is that people suffering with a physical condition could be labeled and diagnosed mentally ill. They would face the stigmas attached to mental illness; they would have a harder time getting medical care, insurance, and reimbursement from programs like Medicaid and Medicare. If that wasn’t bad enough, there is now strong pressure to divest the mentally ill of some basic rights, including the Second Amendment right to own guns.
Why It’s Important
This case demonstrates the danger that comes when mental illness is used as a standard to strip somebody of rights. The professionals cannot agree on what is and what is not a mental illness. There is no hard and fast definition, and definitions can change.
Asperger’s Syndrome was widely considered to be a mental illness until DSM-5 came out and stated it was not. Of course, it should be noted that not every psychiatrist accepts the DSM as a valid tool. Some critics believe that the DSM’s criteria is shallow and simplistic.
The DSM-5 labeled hoarding a disorder, while many doctors don’t think it is. The new diagnosis is supported by neuroimaging. The idea is that hoarding is an obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Some critics have noted that the diagnoses of mental illnesses increase after they appear in the DSM. That, of course, shows what a limited tool psychiatry really is, and doctors really don’t know that much about the way that the human mind actually works.
The situation is made worse by the fact that most non-psychiatrists have very outdated ideas about psychology. They believe that Freudian analysis is valid, even though almost all of the theories behind it have been disproven.
The DSM and Asperger’s Syndrome
The media widely reported that the suspect in the Newtown, Conn. shooting, Adam Lanza, had Asperger’s, even though it is not viewed as a mental illness by most experts. There is no evidence that Adam Lanza was mentally ill or had ever been diagnosed with mental illness. The stories in the press were all based on rumors and hearsay, which is pretty typical of news stories about mental illness.
Yet many people believe that the tragedy could have been prevented if Adam Lanza’s mother had just taken him to a psychologist. There’s no evidence whatsoever that a psychologist or a mental health professional could have done a thing for Lanza.
The problem of course is that people with mental illnesses—and worse, anybody who is believed to have one—are characterized as violent. Yet doctors cannot agree on what a mental illness is or how to treat one.
Liberals, of course, have jumped on this as an excuse to restrict gun rights. After gun rights, what’s next? Will the mentally ill be restricted from driving cars or holding certain kinds of jobs? Or banned from voting?
That should worry those with conditions like Asperger’s or fibromyalgia. They might be labeled “mentally ill” and deprived of some of their basic rights.
So What Really Causes Fibromyalgia
Finally, we have to ask what causes conditions like fibromyalgia. The most likely cause is brain and nervous system damage, which is often caused by bad diet. It has been reported that diets rich in fish oil, which contains high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, can reverse brain damage and mental illness.
The reason for this appears to be that omega-3 is the building block of brain tissue, and the bodies of those with a deficiency of it may not be able to repair brain damage. A study in Europe and Australia showed that fish oil supplements were as effective as psychiatric drugs in treating some mental illnesses, including schizophrenia.
This evidence indicates that dietary deficiencies could be the real cause of a lot of so-called mental illness and related conditions such as fibromyalgia. That, of course, threatens the psychiatric profession and the high fees it charges, as well as the pharmaceutical industry and the big profits that it makes by peddling psychiatric drugs.
There’s also evidence that some of the ingredients added to our foods, including MSG and aspartame, cause brain damage. Neurosurgeon Dr. Russell Blaylock believes that aspartame and MSG, which are widespread in our food, are exictoxin chemicals (or neurotoxins) that overexcite the brain and nerves and lead to problems such as sensitivity to pain. In other words, what we eat and drink could be causing the epidemic of problems like mental illness and fibromyalgia.
Big Food and its apologists in the medical profession clearly don’t like that hypothesis because it threatens their profits. For example, if their neurotoxins cause such problems, they could be hit with big lawsuits like those that Big Tobacco had to deal with in the past. That, of course, could be part of the pressure to declare conditions like fibromyalgia a mental illness. If such problems are physical, they have a cause, and people might start asking what the cause of the problems is. Many people would research and realize that many of the additives in our food cause it.
So there are many reasons why people should pay attention to fibromyalgia and the debate over its causes. The debate shows some of the things that are wrong with our medical profession, and worse, how so-called mental health might be a threat to our basic rights.