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Tales From the Fainting Couch


GenerationCedarchip

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I don't know if it's just me, but lately it seems like my church circles and my social media have been flooded with young (mostly) women who all have serious but vaguely described ailments. "Lyme syndrome" seems to be a popular one as well as various gastro complaints that are mostly self-diagnosed. Has anyone else noticed this?  It's almost like the invalids of the Victorian age. This time around no one is falling into a swoon, but everyone is in need of oils or a special diet, and normal levels of activity are just out of the question.  It just makes me sad. I can't help wondering if some of it is psychosomatic, or if there is something (poor diet maybe?) causing so many people to have these problems.

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Yes! I've been noticing this for years, actually, on several of the blogs/FB pages/IGs we follow here. Lyme disease this, gluten-free that, Plexus-cures-it-all, essential oils with every meal. Modern-day versions of the vapors, I say. 

Young women's responses to being steeped in the patriarchal fundamentalist crazy, laden with expectations of supreme purity, then marriage to someone of daddy's choosing, followed by years of militant fecundity? Makes sense to me. Being a delicate buttercup on the fainting couch might look like an attractive alternative to the fate of someone like "sturdy" Kelly Bradrick.

 

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One of my relatives (daughter of my dad's first cousin) is an evangelical of the hipster megachurch variety. She dropped out of college to marry quite young and is a homeschooling SAHM with three little boys. She took to her bed shortly after the third was born (without any physical complications) last fall with all sorts of mysterious ailments which she has now self diagnosed as autoimmune and is on some ridiculous diet. She began improving at the same time that another SAHM recommended the diet. Coincidentally, that was when the baby was about six months old. I strongly suspect based on her descriptions and the timing that this may have been post-partum depression. But she eschews most conventional medical care, so I don't know that she had proper follow ups after the birth--which was at a birthing center with a midwife. 

On top of having baby number three, her husband was laid off shortly before the birth and started a new job with three weeks away for training only a couple of weeks after the birth--leaving her home alone with three young children for all that time. She also has a strained relationship with her own parents and her grandfather, whose home she grew up in, passed away a six weeks after the baby was born. 

So, yeah, I suspect depression not autoimmune but as circumstances settle, she is crediting the diet with curing her, of course. And if the depression returns, I'm sure she won't recognize it then either. Her church is of the Christians don't get depressed or struggle emotionally variety, too. So she would have to blame something else. 

I suspect that some of these young SAHDs could be experiencing emotional issues, too. 

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I would diagnose them with a  combo of stress, depression or other mental health issue, and internet health conspiracy theories

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Some of it is surely real, but I do think a good bit of it (especially among Fundies) is likely physical reactions to psychological or mental issues. Depression has a lot of the same symptoms as some other disorders, but physical stuff is "real" while some people still believe mental illnesses are simply weakness.

 

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4 hours ago, louisa05 said:

One of my relatives (daughter of my dad's first cousin) is an evangelical of the hipster megachurch variety. She dropped out of college to marry quite young and is a homeschooling SAHM with three little boys. She took to her bed shortly after the third was born (without any physical complications) last fall with all sorts of mysterious ailments which she has now self diagnosed as autoimmune and is on some ridiculous diet. She began improving at the same time that another SAHM recommended the diet. Coincidentally, that was when the baby was about six months old. I strongly suspect based on her descriptions and the timing that this may have been post-partum depression. But she eschews most conventional medical care, so I don't know that she had proper follow ups after the birth--which was at a birthing center with a midwife. 

On top of having baby number three, her husband was laid off shortly before the birth and started a new job with three weeks away for training only a couple of weeks after the birth--leaving her home alone with three young children for all that time. She also has a strained relationship with her own parents and her grandfather, whose home she grew up in, passed away a six weeks after the baby was born. 

So, yeah, I suspect depression not autoimmune but as circumstances settle, she is crediting the diet with curing her, of course. And if the depression returns, I'm sure she won't recognize it then either. Her church is of the Christians don't get depressed or struggle emotionally variety, too. So she would have to blame something else. 

I suspect that some of these young SAHDs could be experiencing emotional issues, too. 

I would not be surprised at all.  They are so sheltered, then expected to be the perfect wife and perfect mom of many children. They don't generally get to just be themselves or have much in the way of a normal childhood or adolescence.  I know a few people that married right out of high school, eventually they realized that they were just too young and inexperienced, and wanted that part of their life that they missed.

Mr. Briefly's mom is one. She was 16 when she got married, so was Mr. Briefly's dad. She thought marriage would be one big fun time where she wouldn't have to answer to anyone and found out pretty soon that it was not at all like that.  They were both just way too young and it was rocky, eventually they divorced (several children later) she admits that she made some really bad decisions during that time because she was trying to catch up on what she'd missed out on.  I think that might be fairly common in that situation.

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It sure is a good way to deflect any suspicions that you might be dissatisfied with your divinely appointed role in life. Oh no, it's not that my perfect and enviable lifestyle makes me feel so stressed or hopeless or bored that I can't get out of bed! It's probably just gluten or something.

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I don’t know exactly what caused my ishoos (anxiety, self-esteem problems, nothing really major, and exacerbated somewhat by ASD) but I do know it’s nothing to do with gluten or Lyme disease or whatever.

It could just be a bizarre fad. They may also not want to admit to having a mental illness; despite the increased awareness nowadays and people sharing blogs about their MH experiences/journeys, there is still a taboo around MH. With fundies, it’s also to do with the fact that they must be super cheerful 24/7 and any depressive episodes must be dealt with through prayer. “Physical” illnesses are more acceptable; prayer is still key but it’s more normal to take something for a physical problem (even something dodgy like Plexus).

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Many symptoms of Lyme disease and gluten intolerance are shared by depression, postpartum depression,  anxiety, or hypothyroidism. However, mental health issues tend to be much more common in 20-something women than Lyme disease or celiac disease, but the Fundies do not want to acknowledge it. Making the situation worse, most cases of depression among these women tend to be minor, they don't need medication or heavy counseling, just a few sessions of therapy and some interests outside of caring for babies, but since they never get treated, it can easily snowball into something more serious. 

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I have really mixed feelings about this.  3 weeks after I turned 17, I collapsed and never fully recovered.  I spent years - more than a decade - being told it was all in my head, it was entirely mental, it was because I couldn't handle my life.  Just snap out of it and get on with your life, everyone's tired.  The closest I got to being taken seriously was a diagnosis of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome aka Go Away And Stop Bothering Us You Faker.  I have plaques on my brain (diagnosed by MRI not by internet research thank you very much) but ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Then I moved overseas and saw new doctors and was given new tests.  And blood tests at the Tropical Institute showed I had had 3 tick borne infections in the past.  And transferred records from the states showed that my first Lyme test had been borderline with instructions to treat for Lyme if symptoms were present.  Symptoms were present  in abundance (I even had a bullseye rash for fuck's sake) but my pediatrician didn't show us those results and gave me a prescription for anti-depressants instead of anti-biotics because lol women and their vapors and hysteria am I right?

I don't believe in "chronic Lyme" the way I have seen it described (though who knows, bacteria are tricky beasts) but the damage done by not treating it at all while being literally forced to go to school (physically dragged into the car and building by my parents) and constantly berated for being lying or crazy and being told by priests it was a spiritual disease and being kept awake while all my body wanted to do was rest and heal did a cascade of damage that has had a lasting and devastating effect on my health and life.

At the same time I COULDN'T handle my life at the time I got sick.  I've always been one of those over sensitive empathic people who feel things too deeply.  I was under an extreme amount of stress, living in abusive home, and had just attracted a stalker who looked just like the man who had sexually assaulted me when I was a small child.  That no doubt contributed to the severity of the initial illness (and after a year no more health insurance, God bless America, so I was only seen by kooky naturopaths and a couple weird-in-retrospect actual doctors who wanted to keep an eye on my case).  It absolutely contributed to my recovery or lack thereof.  I often think if I could be like Elizabeth Barrett Browning and just fuck off to Italy to convalesce with other people waiting on me 24/7 and no worries, I could rebuild myself.  But that's not happening in this life.  

The mind and body connection is an amazing, intricate thing.  Mental problems can absolutely be sublimated and manifest as physical.  One of my doctors (a good one, where I am now) described it as your brain being your processor, and when it's overheating of course the computer that is your body doesn't work.  It's good that we are recognizing that more, and we can see these women might be sublimating mental issues even if they can't, and hopefully be understanding and look for compassionate ways to help.  It just also feels very laden with misogyny.  Men set up this system, women suffer, and then are derided when they can't handle it.

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17 hours ago, Alisamer said:

Some of it is surely real

I absolutely believe their symptoms are real. For instance, I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder. I have a host of GI issues (nausea, even vomiting, lack of appetite,  diarrhea), skin issues (eczema), headaches, muscle aches, exhaustion, if I don't manage it. The fact that I have a mental illness doesn't make my symptoms not real. Trust me, the vomiting is very real. Anyone who wants to say otherwise can come clean it up. :P 

But they latch onto these "diseases" that seem to cause anything and everything. I mean, look at this list of "symptoms" of so-called chronic lyme disease: https://canlyme.com/lyme-basics/symptoms/. You might as well have a symptom "list" that just says "Being alive." 

At best, these health conspiracies are a waste of money. At worst, the "treatments" do real harm and prevent the actual illness from being treated.

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My mother-in-law suddenly had fibromyalgia right after her father was killed and her mother was seriously injured in a car accident. Now, I know that some people really have fibromyalgia. I worked as a nanny for a woman who had it 21 years ago before it was, frankly, trendy. But MiL's was diagnosed by her and her daughter via a combination of information on internet blogs and daughter's "medical training" from yoga teacher certification. One blog SiL directed us to so we would understand had hundreds of symptoms listed that were compiled via submission by readers. After reading that, I was certain anyone over about 35 has it. It included perfectly normal effects of aging like needing reading glasses/bifocals and normal symptoms of perimenopause and  menopause. 

The timing of MiL's developing symptoms was also very interesting. She did not handle the sudden change in her mother's circumstances or her grief for her father well at all. And suddenly, she had all these physical symptoms plus was given a green light to blame perfectly normal facets of aging like the need for bifocals on a random disease out of her own control. And many of her symptoms that are not normal for a woman her age are the kinds of physical symptoms that can come with grief, depression and extreme stress. Plus she has never sought or been open to actual medical care for any of this. 

Father-in-law has finally convinced her to see a doctor over two years later, for an issue with her hand which appears to be severe tendinitis or carpel tunnel, but she told us that "it's just fibro and they can't do anything". We doubt that and so did the PA who referred her to an orthopedist. We hope that finding out it is not will get her to seek real medical care for everything else. 

I do think that some people prefer to blame an illness rather than deal with mental and emotional issues. 

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18 minutes ago, louisa05 said:

I do think that some people prefer to blame an illness rather than deal with mental and emotional issues. 

I fell down a rabbit hole recently on some natural health advice website, I forget why I went there, some vitamin or the other someone told me to take.  There was this poor woman with all these terrible physical symptoms who was insisting there was no mental component.  Then it slowly came out that in the last 3 years her husband had died, she lost her job, and her daughter had cancer.  But her insomnia and muscle pains were completely unrelated to stress!  Stress and grief did not affect her!  It was really sad.  The man trying to help her in a more holistic way eventually gave up.

Until I had people take my physical problems seriously, I was very defensive at the idea that any of them were mental because it felt like a dismissal if everything I was going through.  Now, I accept that aspect and am not ashamed.  I can admit I have anxiety now that I can differentiate between it and the "anxiety" that turned out to be POTS (diagnosed by a cardiologist and tilt table test).  My brain and my mind are as much a part of me as any other.  Problems there aren't any less real and I can't work on fixing them if I don't acknowledge them.  

I developed fibro 18 years ago after a car accident (diagnosed on two continents by rheumatologists).  Once the body gets started falling apart, it seems like it just keeps falling.  I have read fibromyalgia can manifest after injury, illness, or some other trauma.  That the brain gets confused and just keeps putting out the wrong signals.  I was told (by one of the weird doctors I referenced above) that everyone that has it was sexually abused.  I can't believe that is true, but it could speak to the way the way the body and mind process traumatic events.

I think a lot of people would benefit from this book https://www.amazon.com/Body-Keeps-Score-Healing-Trauma/dp/0143127748/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1530029179&sr=8-1&keywords=the+body+keeps+the+score

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5 minutes ago, IntrinsicallyDisordered said:

I fell down a rabbit hole recently on some natural health advice website, I forget why I went there, some vitamin or the other someone told me to take.  There was this poor woman with all these terrible physical symptoms who was insisting there was no mental component.  Then it slowly came out that in the last 3 years her husband had died, she lost her job, and her daughter had cancer.  But her insomnia and muscle pains were completely unrelated to stress!  Stress and grief did not affect her!  It was really sad.  The man trying to help her in a more holistic way eventually gave up.

Until I had people take my physical problems seriously, I was very defensive at the idea that any of them were mental because it felt like a dismissal if everything I was going through.  Now, I accept that aspect and am not ashamed.  I can admit I have anxiety now that I can differentiate between it and the "anxiety" that turned out to be POTS (diagnosed by a cardiologist and tilt table test).  My brain and my mind are as much a part of me as any other.  Problems there aren't any less real and I can't work on fixing them if I don't acknowledge them.  

I developed fibro 18 years ago after a car accident (diagnosed on two continents by rheumatologists).  Once the body gets started falling apart, it seems like it just keeps falling.  I have read fibromyalgia can manifest after injury, illness, or some other trauma.  That the brain gets confused and just keeps putting out the wrong signals.  I was told (by one of the weird doctors I referenced above) that everyone that has it was sexually abused.  I can't believe that is true, but it could speak to the way the way the body and mind process traumatic events.

I think a lot of people would benefit from this book https://www.amazon.com/Body-Keeps-Score-Healing-Trauma/dp/0143127748/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1530029179&sr=8-1&keywords=the+body+keeps+the+score

Our problem with MiL's "diagnosis" is that there were no professionals involved. Like you, the woman I worked for years ago was professionally diagnosed and regularly saw a rheumatologist. She also had an actual treatment plan. MiL seems to use this non-diagnosis to get out of things as well. We have reached a point where when she doesn't want to do something (particularly involving caring for her now disabled mother), she plans in advance to be sick. I kid you not, she will literally say the words "I'm going to be sick that day". She is also extremely inactive physically and always has been. So then when she has to do something physical, it tires her out quickly and causes muscle aches which is all immediately blamed on this non-diagnosis. Her asshole daughter makes her get up and go open her building for another teacher to hold a 5 a.m. yoga class twice a week (asshole SiL lives above the yoga studio--but MiL driving across town to do it is obviously better) and she blames being tired those days on the non-diagnosis. And on and on it goes....there is often an entirely logical explanation for the symptoms. As for her hand/wrist problem, she spent fifteen years running her daughter's coffeehouse and it has been ongoing for several years--likely overuse related to the espresso machine. But of course it's her maybe not fibromyalgia instead. SiL even convinced her early on after her dad died that crying and feeling sad was from fibro, not grief. 

And, no, I have no idea what SiL gets out of this situation that she has exacerbated with her pretend medical expertise. 

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13 minutes ago, louisa05 said:

Our problem with MiL's "diagnosis" is that there were no professionals involved. Like you, the woman I worked for years ago was professionally diagnosed and regularly saw a rheumatologist. She also had an actual treatment plan. MiL seems to use this non-diagnosis to get out of things as well. We have reached a point where when she doesn't want to do something (particularly involving caring for her now disabled mother), she plans in advance to be sick. I kid you not, she will literally say the words "I'm going to be sick that day". She is also extremely inactive physically and always has been. So then when she has to do something physical, it tires her out quickly and causes muscle aches which is all immediately blamed on this non-diagnosis. Her asshole daughter makes her get up and go open her building for another teacher to hold a 5 a.m. yoga class twice a week (asshole SiL lives above the yoga studio--but MiL driving across town to do it is obviously better) and she blames being tired those days on the non-diagnosis. And on and on it goes....there is often an entirely logical explanation for the symptoms. As for her hand/wrist problem, she spent fifteen years running her daughter's coffeehouse and it has been ongoing for several years--likely overuse related to the espresso machine. But of course it's her maybe not fibromyalgia instead. SiL even convinced her early on after her dad died that crying and feeling sad was from fibro, not grief. 

And, no, I have no idea what SiL gets out of this situation that she has exacerbated with her pretend medical expertise. 

That sounds like a nightmare, you have my sympathy dealing with all of that.  I do feel a bit for your MIL in that if she's suffering physical pain due to grief, it's never going to get better if she blames it on fibromyalgia, and her daughter is doing her no favors reinforcing it.  And it damages people who actually have been diagnosed by making others think everyone is self diagnosing (I really think those websites that give you all the "symptoms" and make it so everyone on the planet has it should be illegal).  

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4 minutes ago, IntrinsicallyDisordered said:

That sounds like a nightmare, you have my sympathy dealing with all of that.  I do feel a bit for your MIL in that if she's suffering physical pain due to grief, it's never going to get better if she blames it on fibromyalgia, and her daughter is doing her no favors reinforcing it.  And it damages people who actually have been diagnosed by making others think everyone is self diagnosing (I really think those websites that give you all the "symptoms" and make it so everyone on the planet has it should be illegal).  

I feel for her, too. But we honestly don't know what is real at this point. The whole "I'm going to be sick that day" thing makes it seem like maybe it isn't. I mean, who plans to be sick? Then there is the whole thing where her and SiL are now constantly retroactively diagnosing dead relatives with it--MiL's maternal grandmother was an alcoholic. So the two of them have now diagnosed her with fibro and decided that is the reason she drank. Mind you, drinking is the only symptom. I have alcoholics on my family tree. I doubt that they all had fibro. They have diagnosed others, too. 

And I totally agree, this stuff and those ridiculous websites are definitely a reason that many people don't take a real diagnosis seriously. I worked for someone who legitimately had it for two summers. I never doubted her. But her symptoms were not remotely like my MiL, either. She never planned to be sick, either. 

I also think that women like this are the reason that many of us with legitimate health issues get treated like we're overreacting or making stuff up by medical professionals. I went through that when I made the mistake of going to an urgent care two weeks ago. As a result, a serious error in treatment was made which has left me miserable and will probably last 1-2 more weeks. When my MiL goes to her primary care doctor, refuses a referral to a rheumatologist and insists that fibromyalgia diagnosed by her completely unqualified daughter is the cause of her bronchitis....who can blame him and his staff for starting to believe that female patients with unusual symptoms or conditions are not reliable narrators, so to speak. (We heard all about that one because of the great injustice of the doctor telling her bronchitis is not caused by fibro and that she needs to see a specialist to determine an actual diagnosis and treatment plan). 

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I honestly don't know how new this "trend" is.  I think it's been growing for at least the past decade.  So many women were self-diagnosing these types of things in the fundie-lite church I attended 5 or so years ago, that when I started having health issues that were auto-immune related (finally diagnosed as Graves' along with LADA - it also took a LONG time for me to convince my doctor to refer me to a endocrinologist - who then figured out what was going wrong immediately - I had to have surgery to remove my thyroid less than 2 weeks after that appointment!).  

I was treated horribly by the church I went to - as if my illness was sin/an excuse/made-up.  And someone from that church still tries to sell me Plexus to "improve my thyroid function".  lol.

 

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I always wondered what sort of mysterious disease did/does Lauren Berkompas (Hope) has? I remember she would write how she spent days in bed convalescing, also being ona special diet. Any clues? 

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It's definitely an interesting phenomenon, and not just limited to fundies or "chronic Lyme."  Fibromyalgia, POTS, Ehlers-Danlos, gastroparesis, chronic fatigue syndrome, mast cell activation syndrome, mitochondrial diseases, and adrenal fatigue are all diagnoses that people like that tend to latch on to. Except for adrenal fatigue, those can all be real things, but they're also easy to claim based on very vague symptoms. There are also a lot of shady doctors who exploit that population, like the "Lyme literate doctors" who are happy to use tests with very high false positive rates to diagnose anyone and then take their money for long, dangerous treatments.

It's definitely important to remember that even if the diagnosis isn't accurate, the symptoms people are dealing with are real. It's a difficult issue.

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I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in 1998.
I had been in a car/train accident in 1989, which resulted in six orthopedic surgeries and residential physical therapy to learn how to walk again.
But this doctor decided I had pain of UNKNOWN ORIGIN and slapped the FMS diagnosis on me.

So, I am not a fan of that diagnosis. It’s not that I think people are faking the symptoms, I think that doctors use it as a diagnosis to make women go away and stop bothering them.

One of my kids is gifted and has generalized anxiety disorder, which is not an unusual combo. In some of my discussion groups, parents are talking about the innumerable allergies to everything their gifted children have. Their children’s symptoms exactly match up to my kid’s GAD - but their child can’t have anxiety, it must be food dyes. [emoji849]

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Did you know that hysteria was found to be connected to sexual abuse by Freud? But he didn't want to shake up these fine gentleman and hold gem accountable who were abusing their daughters/sisters/etc., So he burried it.

There has been so much recent research into the body-mind connection. It's not uncommon at all for people who have been abused to have multiple physical symptoms that present as unknowns or hard to diagnose. 

As for myself, anxiety and depression keep me mostly in my bed all day, every day. I don't know what people say behind my back because I don't give a fuck, and I don't have anyone who relies on me besides my dog. I don't have the pressure that these young women have put on them by their religion and their families. I'm sure there is a lot of shame because if they were better God would bless them more. 

 

Tl;dr I think these symptoms are a manifestation of the abuses this forum was created to shine a light on. 

 

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I have a daughter that has celiac disease. She also has a science degree. She is very happy with the offer of gluten-free food almost everywhere. But she has a lot of contempt for the GF bandwagon jumpers, except they make her life easier. 

Chiropracty is completely based on pseudo science. It has followers everywhere, and ‘respected’ colleges with real prerequisites. 

Women’s health issues are not taken seriously in the world of patriarchy. Patriarchy is not limited to fundamentalist religion. 

BTW, Trump was ‘saved’, I think it was publicly broadcasted with James Dobson, of Focus on the Family. 

I embarrassed my daughter about 10 years ago, by telling her, in a loud voice, when we passed the FotF booth at the local woman’s show: ‘Oh, these are the Christian child beaters ‘.

(Please forgive me, if I sound like Taryn, with better punctuation. )

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20 minutes ago, jjmennonite said:

Women’s health issues are not taken seriously in the world of patriarchy.

Women's health issues are not taken seriously, period. It's too easy for doctors to diagnose "anxiety" or "depression" and hand out a pill when there could be an actual physical issue. I have anxiety, depression, and OCD. But the fact that I also had a congenital heart condition was overlooked, in spite of my complaints of fatigue/racing heartbeat/inability to exercise. It was overlooked until I was 29 and it almost killed me. I'm still a tiny bit pissed that nobody caught it all those years.

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I think Chiropractors are legitimate, at least in the US. I know the education and regulation vary throughout the world though. There are just too many people who have been helped by chiropractors for it to be all placebo. I think if it was all placebo then something like Crystal Healing would be equally as popular.

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