6 Real Afflictions That Have Somehow Become Trendy
There was a time in history where most people didn't want to have diseases. It was considered cool to be healthy, and "normal" was considered a compliment, not a label for people that make fun of your poetry.
Things are different now. Not only do people make up fake diseases, but even worse, people are diagnosing themselves left and right with real medical and psychiatric disorders, which basically makes a joke out of the people who actually do suffer from those disorders.
Asperger's syndrome is basically a type of autism that's usually not so severe as to prevent a person from functioning independently. It's still a lifelong challenge for people who have it, and their families, but it's also a wonderful opportunity for lazy people with bad social skills to excuse themselves.
I mean, if you don't go talk to an expert but just gloss over a list of symptoms, what you learn is that people with Asperger's "lack inborn social skills," "may not understand a joke," "avoid eye contact," "may feel 'different' from others," "find it frustrating and emotionally draining to try to fit in" and "are typically uninterested in following social norms, fads or conventional thinking, allowing creative thinking and the pursuit of original interests and goals."
"Also are likely to be the chosen one called to save a fantasy world."
You know who is going to latch onto that? Every goddamn teenager in the world (and many adults). Now, if you dig deeper, you'll see that Asperger's is a lot more complicated than a list of vague symptoms and needs to be diagnosed by an actual clinician, but the beauty (or horror) of Web research these days means that anyone who feels like "I've always known there was something different about me" can google up a list of symptoms or an Internet quiz, and diagnose themselves, despite the caveats on those sites.
Just so we don't slander the people with real Asperger's (you know, the ones that have actually been diagnosed), let's call the fake ones Ass Burgers. If you do this out loud, no one will even notice.
For visualization purposes.
There's a few common reasons that Ass Burgers self-diagnose.
1) It's not your fault anymore!
If it's a real disease that real psychiatrists have a name for, and real patients get treated for, then no one can blame you! No one can call you a rude asshole for talking about your Transformers collection for two hours straight during someone else's farewell party. You have a condition!
2) You're special!
Some people with Asperger's can be very intelligent. They might not count cards, but they can be very focused and knowledgeable about specific subjects, and think in unconventional, creative ways. An Ass Burger would love to be able to hitch their wagon of bad social skills to neat traits like these.
3) People can't make you do anything about it!
There's no cure! So other people need to learn what you mean when you make incomprehensible jokes that vaguely sound like insults, instead of you learning to make jokes in a way other people understand.
Unfortunately, none of these reasons make any sense. For (1), being shy or awkward often isn't anyone's fault either. For (2), anyone can be intelligent. And it's up to every individual to prove it. You don't just automatically get that badge because you can't talk to people. And (3), I'm afraid treatment for kids with real Asperger's syndrome actually involves pushing them (gently) into social interactions, whereas if you're just shy, experts suggest letting you blossom in your own time.
So that's a really bad path to choose if you want to make a case for being left alone. Of course, a fake Ass Burger would never find that out, because they would never go to a psychiatrist, who might blow their gig. If that happened, though, they might switch their self-diagnosis to ...
Fake sociopathy self-diagnosers come pretty much from the same group as the Ass Burgers. The difference is that instead of going for an image of a misunderstood, awkward, eccentric genius, they're going for more of a cool, detached, badass genius. When they play Let's Pretend, they like to be serial killers or vampires.
Other than that, same thing. People who found an easy way to paint their bad traits (awkwardness, assholery) as cool ones.
Recently, it seems like America has declared war on gluten. Apparently gluten is some kind of protein substance found in wheat and other grains, and it is some kind of horrible poison. Because everybody and their brother is selling gluten-free versions of everything.
In proud defiance, Chinese food producers not only serve gluten by the can-ful, but fry it. Probably in trans fats. It's quite delicious.
If you like to make dietary decisions based on facts, however, and not what your hippie neighbor is doing, you might try and dig up what's behind this. It turns out gluten actually is poisonous ... to less than one percent of the population, who have a condition called celiac disease. Gluten can give them horrible problems ranging from diarrhea to cancer.
Beyond people with actual celiac disease though, there's a real, but difficult to pinpoint, condition of "gluten intolerance," where gluten won't give you cancer or destroy your intestines, or anything observable, but it makes you feel kind of bad.
"Man, I think I'm just feeling kind of gluteny today."
What are the diagnostic criteria? If you stop eating gluten, and you think you feel better. Seriously, that's it. There's no test.
Can some people have gluten intolerance without any tests being able to pick it up? Definitely. Are the millions of people who suddenly discovered they "can't eat gluten" right after gluten became a national buzzword -- are they all actually gluten intolerant? Probably not.
And beyond those people is an even larger circle of people who can't even mentally convince themselves they feel better after dropping gluten from their diet, but believe somehow, that because some people are allergic to it, that it is poisonous to all humans.
And some people are even taking it a step further and suggesting that if removing gluten from some people's diets prevents symptoms of celiac disease, maybe it can cure other, completely unrelated diseases! Like autism!
Hey, chemo is great at treating cancer patients! Let's use it on people with high blood pressure! That's logical!
And in conclusion: Mmmm!
Multiple Chemical Sensitivity
Multiple chemical sensitivity, or MCS, sounds all precise and scientific, but it's not. It's probably one of the vaguest diagnoses in the world, and it's not considered an actual diagnosis by the American Medical Association.
It means that there's some chemical, or combination of chemicals, that the patient is sensitive to in even tiny amounts, which causes them to get sick. That's really as specific as it gets. The sickness could be nausea, headaches, fatigue, depression, diarrhea, runny nose -- basically anything that falls under the category of "sick." The chemicals could also be any chemicals. Nobody seems to be able to diagnose you with an allergy or any other official disease.
I mean, you can see how MCS leaves itself wide-open for abuse.
I think I mighta made a typo when searching for MCS. Well, close enough.
Now the perfume sensitivity, and other specific sensitivities, might be a real thing. Gulf War Syndrome in particular, after years of debate, is being narrowed down and treated. But as long as things as broad as perfume and oil well fires get put under the ridiculously vague MCS umbrella, and any chemical/symptom combo is allowed to join the club, new diagnoses are only limited by the imagination, and a genuinely sick Gulf War vet can find himself sharing the spotlight with a guy who thinks undetectable radon in his house is making his penis shrink.
Lyme disease is a real thing -- a tick bites you, it puts some bacteria in you, the bacteria make you sick with flu-like symptoms. If it gets bad enough, it can attack your joints and nervous system and maybe even paralyze you. Now why the hell would you want to pretend to have that?
Other than if you'd just gotten a role playing a brave woman dying of Lyme disease for a Lifetime original movie, of course.
Well, the thing about medicine we forget about sometimes, is that when you go in the doctor and ask why you're feeling shitty, quite a lot of the time the answer is, "Fuck me, I don't know." Most of our state-of-the-art technology goes toward making sure people don't die, because if there's anything people will pay any amount of money for, it's not dying. There's a lot of things that make you feel tired or dizzy or give you headaches all the time, but if it's not killing you, nobody is spending a lot of money to figure out why.
"You're here because you feel 'icky'? Seriously?"
And sometimes, when your doctor can't put a label on what you've got, you feel like he doesn't think it's real, and you might be right in some cases. So when another doctor comes along and says you've got a real thing, and it falls under a broad category called "Chronic Lyme Disease," and it explains everything you have, and he knows just how to cure it, well, you're easy pickings.
I mean, if you had the choice between, "I feel awful all the time, but nobody is ever going to put a finger on what it is, and I guess I'll just have to live with it forever," and "I've got a thing with a name and someone can cure it," what would you pick?
Problem is, there are tests for the presence of Lyme disease -- mainly, whether you have antibodies against Lyme bacteria. Because that's what your body does when something weird gets in it. And you can't fake that test.
But you don't have to! Self-professed "Lyme-literate physicians" have discovered a new type of "sero-negative" Lyme disease that doesn't cause you to make antibodies for some reason, which basically means in medical terms that it's invisible to standard tests. Source of data for this new discovery? Their asses.
Oh my God, that woman is trying to steal that man's research!
Then they'll send your blood to "Lyme specialty laboratories" that apparently specialize in throwing away your blood sample and mailing back a report saying you have Lyme disease.
You're very likely sick from something, but if it's not Lyme disease, the Lyme specialists are not going to tell you that, or care to find out what it is. Instead, they'll sell you antibiotics that don't do anything. Everybody wins (sort of). The quacks get money for "treating" you, and you get to tell everyone, "See? I told you I wasn't a hypochondriac!" Because sadly, a lot of people won't believe you're sick, no matter how many symptoms you have, unless you put a scientific-sounding label on it.
I don't know, feels kind of sad for a win-win situation though.
Bipolar disorder is a serious mental illness characterized by suicidally depressive lows and irresponsibly manic highs. So you can see how anyone with any kind of mood swings can easily self-diagnose themselves with it, as long as they avoid actual experts.
"'Sometimes I'm happy and sometimes I'm sad?' Oh my God, it's like they're in my head!"
And you can see why they would want to. If you're just a normal person with mood swings, you're expected to deal with it, maybe exercise some self-control. But if you say you're bipolar, well, it's a Serious Condition. People will give you sympathy and pity, because your struggles are way beyond what normal people have to go through.
They'll also encourage you to seek professional help, but you won't. You'll make a big deal about how you're too proud or you're afraid of therapists, and maybe that's true, but you're also afraid of being told you don't really have it, and that you're in the same boat as the rest of humanity when it comes to struggling with emotions.
"Sometimes you guys are happy and sad too? Oh my God, what are the odds?"
And the other reason healthy people love to claim they have bipolar disorder? Because some really cool people have had it. Carrie Fisher, Richard Dreyfuss, Stephen Fry, Linda Hamilton and tons of neat people. Unfortunately, so does the lead singer of Fall Out Boy. But you don't have to bring that up.
Just focus on Princess Leia and Sarah Connor.
In fact, celebrities seem to have it so often that some people theorize bipolar disorder is tied to creativity. Actually, I would guess that the more relevant relationship is that being famous is tied to wanting attention. Shortly after Catherine Zeta-Jones announced she had bipolar disorder, Charlie Sheen, who also claims bipolarity, picked a random Canadian bipolar-advocacy organization and organized a fundraising walk under their name where he stood on cars wearing a hat that read, "I'm Not Bipolar." It took four days for the organization to contact him and actually get the money. The walk certainly raised awareness, mostly of Charlie Sheen.
Shortly after, Demi Lovato announced she was bipolar.
I don't know these people so I'm not going to guess who's faking what, but what are the odds of a bunch of celebrities suddenly discovering they are bipolar in such a short time period?
I don't know, but you know someone in Vegas has an actual line on this.
And either way, they're raising awareness, right? Well, maybe it'll cause some people to go see a doctor. But it'll probably cause 10 times as many people to label their ordinary mood swings as bipolar and just go about their lives feeling somewhat cooler and more different, and maybe telling people with real bipolar disorder to suck it up, because they're going through the same thing and they're doing fine.
My prescription? Three slaps to the face.
For more actual issues you should be checking for, check out 6 Personality Quirks You Didn't Know Were Medical Conditions. And some more from Christina in6 Ways Cities Are Getting Into the Attention-Whore Game.