Fibromyalgia “Syndrome” (FMS) is a condition in which inexplicable and widespread pain, fatigue, or general physical distress occurs within an individual. As described by the blog “Fibromyalgia + The Type “A” Personality= Chaos, Frustration and Near Insanity!”, this pain can take many forms including prolonged flu-like symptoms. These episodes are sporadic and entirely unpredictable.  I personally am skeptical (but not wholly unconvinced) of this illness’ disease status under the biomedical paradigm. While I don’t think this perspective is irrational or overly callous (the blogger presents her illness, real or not, as an objective sort of crazy), I recognize that my perspective stems from my particular social education under a system of biomedicine, and that this may bias my understanding. I am also aware that I am not alone in this sentiment, and that this undoubtedly can affect an FMS sufferer’s illness experience. The half-crazy stigmatization that accompanies FMS may affect a sufferer’s Narrative, his or her Experience with the illness, or that individual’s ultimate derived Meaning. If there are no objective biological markers for diagnosis, physicians and those friends and family of the sufferer must rely exclusively on that person’s subjective narrative; a narrative that might, like the author’s of the aforementioned blog, sound somewhat unbelievable. Though I don’t think the treatment of FMS is entirely influenced by a doctor’s perception of his or her patient as “crazy”. More forgivingly, I think that the unavailability of effective treatment methods might force a physician (or any subscriber to the ideology of biomedicine) into a certain denial of FMS syndrome as disease. I believe a physician’s longing for efficacy invariably colors the illness’ treatment in this way. What must be understood is that such “efficacy” is defined under the paradigm of biomedicine which might unreasonably confine a condition like FMS to too narrow a range of treatment options.

This social influence on disease perception is unfortunate for the FMS sufferer. I imagine there is a profound sense of helplessness that accompanies a condition like FMS, and that this sentiment can severely undercut one’s ability to heal. The video Placebo: Cracking the Code is rather convincing in its assertion that the perception of being treated can be stronger than the inherent value of the treatment itself. The depressed woman in the film’s second section was convinced that she had been taking active and effective anti-depression medication, and it was arguably this belief that led to her condition’s remarkable improvement. It is my belief that there is still a chemical-psychological basis for this phenomenon, but that quantifying and assessing it is beyond our current biomedical capabilities (whether this phenomenon can be replicated artificially, I cannot say). This is exactly why I say that our blogger’s condition is so dismal. If she does not believe there is a cure for her pain, she’s already lost half the battle.

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  1. Sarah Newman says:


    Great post. I too agree that I am not sure if I agree with FMS is a real illness. A lot of the way I think about FMS is highly skewed, however, but my job in the emergency room. A lot of doctors see FMS as an excuse for people to come the the ER and get pain medicines, to get high or whatever they may use them for. Bio-medically, because the disease, including the concept of pain, cannot be objectively measured, it is really hard to show or scientifically prove FMS could be real. Sometimes, to me at least, it seems that people suffering from FMS want to be sick to play up the sick role,as discussed in lecture. However,I am sure there are people who are really in pain, who have been identified to be suffering from FMS, who are being judged, as I have pointed out earlier in this post. I think that these people need to further investigate their pain, however, because I think there could be another reason, not just the vague FMS. Because of the prevalence of this disease, at least that I can see about 1/2 of people who come to the emergency room where I work and have a history of FMS, there needs to be more evidence and research to give suffers more credibility for their supposed illness. Also, doctors should probably learn to take patients pain into consideration and not just think they are trying to get high on pain medicines.

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