Thursday, February 16, 2012

Fibro: Mass Hysteria?

I am not drawing any conclusions about the illnesses in Le Roy, NY, but the following is a letter that appeared recently in Rochester, NY's hometown paper:
“I have read with interest about the case of mass hysteria in Le Roy, Genesee County. The truth is that this phenomenon is far more common than presently realized.
Psychosomatic illnesses tend to spread in epidemic fashion, similar to infectious outbreaks. A survey of medical history demonstrates this concept quite nicely. Hysterical symptoms like paralysis and blindness were extremely common in the days of Freud and Breuer. Only after we learned that these disorders were a form of neurosis did the cases finally begin to disappear.
Psychogenic illnesses permeate the current medical landscape and are a tremendous source of health care expenditure. Disorders like chronic back pain, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome and irritable bowel syndrome have spread in epidemic proportions despite little consensus among physicians as to their etiology or to an optimal management and treatment approach. These are the telltale features of psychosomatic disease.
We have a lot to learn from the recent outbreak in Le Roy. It is far from an isolated incident.”
Dr. Michael A. Kaddoch
New York City
Kaddoch, M. (2012, February 15). Historical context for the Le Roy outbreak.  Democrat  and  Chronicle, pp. 7A.
Before I even comment on this letter, let’s define some terms:
Mass hysteria: an episode of psychogenic illness affecting a large group of individuals at the same time. Examples include the witchcraft trials of the 17th century and the irrational mass reaction to the 1938 radio show based on H.G. Wells' science-fiction novel, War of the Worlds. Also called collective hysteria, epidemic hysteria, major hysteria, mass panic, mass psychogenic illness.
Mosby's Medical Dictionary, 8th edition. © 2009, Elsevier.
Conversion disorder: (Although this term was not used in the letter, it has been used in the media as a synonym for mass hysteria.)
Conversion disorder is a condition in which a person has blindness, paralysis, or other nervous system (neurologic) symptoms that cannot be explained by medical evaluation.
Psychosomatic: pertaining to the mind-body relationship; having bodily symptoms of psychic, emotional, or mental origin.
Dorland's Medical Dictionary for Health Consumers. © 2007 by Saunders, an imprint of Elsevier, Inc. All rights reserved.

Neurosis: a mental and emotional disorder that affects only part of the personality, is accompanied by a less distorted perception of reality than in a psychosis, does not result in disturbance of the use of language, and is accompanied by various physical, physiological, and mental disturbances (as visceral symptoms, anxieties, or phobias)
1 originating within the mind.
2 referring to any physical symptom, disease process, or emotional state that is of psychologic rather than physical origin. Also called psychogenetic. See also psychosomatic.
Mosby's Medical Dictionary, 8th edition. © 2009, Elsevier.
Now that we are familiar with the terms used in Dr. Kadoch's letter. I will continue in my next post to contrast his opinion against that of someone who has suffered from both fibromyalgia and chronic back pain.

1 comment:

  1. I am sorry if you were offended in any way by my recent letter in the Democrat and Chronicle. The space available for writing is short and I was only able to convey a short message. The first thing I want you to understand is that this is only my opinion and clearly other valid ones do exist. When I suggest that fibromyalgia, CFS, chronic back pain, IBS, and other disorders are often psychogenic in etiology by no means do I mean that the symptoms are not real or that they are "all in your head." The pain and distress brought on by these diseases are very real and have a tremendous impact on the quality of life of the patients who suffer from them. Rather, I am of the opinion that the cause of these epidemic disorders is psychogenic (as opposed to infectious, inflammatory, neoplastic, etc.) and, therefore, the best course of treatment is to address the cause if we want to achieve a cure. Clearly, we still need a lot more research to be done.

    For further reading, I would highly recommend these books:
    Healing Back Pain by John E. Sarno, M.D.
    The Mindbody Prescription by John E. Sarno, M.D.
    The Divided Mind by John E. Sarno, M.D.
    Unlearn Your Pain by Howard Schubiner, M.D.
    Freedom From Fibromyalgia by Nancy Selfridge, M.D.

    My best wishes for health and happiness. Feel free to contact me if I can be of any help or if you have any further questions or comments.

    Best Regards,
    Michael Kadoch, MD