In the 1970’s Ivan Illich wrote a number of books including The Disabling Professions: and Diseasemongers: How doctors, drug companies and insurers are trying to make you feel sick. He wrote about the process of turning ordinary life and its ups and downs into medical conditions, the so-called medicalisation of society. He observed how the definitions of diseases are being widened in order to boost demand for doctors’ services and new products. He foresaw the alliances that have formed between groups of specialists, drug companies and even some patient groups, who all have a vested interest in making their particular condition look as widespread and serious as possible.
The media plays its part in disease mongering by using the biggest, most dramatic estimates of how many people suffer a disease and by featuring the most severe cases of disability.
The more people classified as sick, the bigger the markets for those who sell and deliver treatments. Or to put it more crudely, there’s a lot of money to be made telling healthy people they’re sick.
So, what makes a person ‘sick’? Who draws the line between normal and abnormal and how long should the label last?
What about the 4 year old who has a wheezy cough? Should they be diagnosed with ‘asthma’ and supplied with inhalers and a labelled as an asthmatic for the rest of their life?
What about the five year old who finds it difficult to sit still and can’t concentrate? Do they suffer from ‘ADHD’ and should they be medicated with amphetamines?
What about the 16 year old with painful periods? Should they be labelled ‘dysmenorrhea’ and filled with hormones for the rest of her childbearing years?
What about the university student who has the pressures of exams building up and is told they suffer from ‘anxiety’. Should they be given little yellow pills to ease their burden?
What about a woman at the menopause, does she have a disease of ‘oestrogen deficiency’? And should she be lining up for regular tests on her breasts and bones and lifelong prescriptions for potentially dangerous drugs?
We read newspaper articles telling us that 60% of people who visit GPs have a mental disorder. We hear news stories claiming that a million Australians suffer from social phobia. We learn that 3-million Australians have a new condition called ‘restless leg syndrome’, and as surely as night follows day there’s a drug you can take for each of these conditions along with the thousands of others.
Do people really believe that the power that made the body is so stupid, weak and feeble that it needs chemical assistance from a drug company to function properly throughout life? Is our innate power so insignificant that it can’t heal, repair and make appropriate choices?
Don’t take on some sickness label. Symptoms are your body’s way of dealing with its environment. Remove interference from the functioning of your body and trust the inherent wisdom of your body to work in your highest interest.