Undoubtedly there have been advances in medicine and medical research in recent times. However, with the growth in these medical developments, the scepticism that surrounds them has also grown, with many people not believing the diagnosis for themselves or for a loved one. This leads to disorders or conditions like those below being under reported and worse still untreated with potentially damaging and devastating consequences.
Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) also known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)
This disorder is currently without a known cause and yet it affects tens of thousands of people. In the main it affects females, though males can be affected too. Those who are young are middle aged are the most commonly afflicted.
ME or CFS is extremely debilitating to sufferers and prevents them from being able to lead a normal life. Often patients with CFS struggle to hold down a job or have an active home life because of the condition’s impact on every day activities and the extreme tiredness it brings.
Chronic fatigue is not the only symptom and other signs of ME can be, though not exclusively so, short term memory loss, sore throat, tender lymph nodes, muscle pain and headaches.
The trouble with recognised CFS as a disorder is that people assume sufferers are exaggerating their symptoms or that they are just lazy. CFS can become apparent following a previous infection such as glandular fever. Regardless of this it is still extremely difficult to get a diagnosis because of health practitioner’s keenness to explore other options. As a result CFS can take a long time to diagnose or be suggested because of the lack of information surrounding it.
As there is no known cause and no easy diagnosis it also makes it difficult to get medical treatment which leads sufferers to seek out alternative therapies and herbal supplements to relieve the condition.
This disorder is severe albeit that it didn’t really receive official medical recognition until the mid 1990’s. Since then it has received more visibility however sufferers still can still face difficulties from those who still dispute its existence.
AS is a pervasive developmental disorder (PDD) which is characterised by the sufferer’s struggle with social interaction coupled with unusual behaviour and patterns of behaviour. Clinically speaking Asperger’s Syndrome is closely related to Autism however it is often not apparent until later in life than Autism and it is believed to mainly only significantly affect boys.
Symptoms include poor nonverbal communication, monotonic speech, little ability to form relationships and a propensity towards social isolation.
Initially those affected were thought to be mildly retarded however developments in both diagnosis and treatment mean that the disorder is dealt with much more effectively than previously which means better prospects for patients and their families.
Another disorder that characteristically affects boys more than girls is ADHD and again it is often a struggle to achieve a diagnosis until other medical avenues have been explored. ADHD affects between 3 and 5% of school aged children and it is a behavioural disorder.
Although found in childhood it is believed that the disorder could run in families though there is no specific known cause. Broadly speaking those affected have a lack of attention, hyperactivity and they act impulsively. Studies have shown that child ADHD sufferers have a difference in their brains to other children suggesting that the cause is triggered early on.
Symptoms of ADHD can be confused with other conditions like depression, learning disabilities and insomnia which is most likely the reason this disorder did not receive early recognition by medical professionals and why actual diagnosis can be a drawn out process of elimination.
The symptoms outlined previously must be present for six months or more in order to receive a proper diagnosis and quite often ADHD is coupled with another psychiatric disorder such as bipolar disease.
Depression could be argued as one of the most underestimated conditions out there. Unlike an undiagnosed condition those who go untreated for depression could spiral very quickly out of control and it could even have fatal consequences as serious cases could lead to suicide.
It is thought that between 10-25% of women and 5-12% of men will suffer from some form of clinical depression throughout their lives. The figures here could even be higher due to sufferers often refusing to address they have a problem at all.
Depression can have an obvious cause such as a tragic life event or an illness, however, there can also be no cause for depression and many people find it difficult when those with seemingly everything going for them fall foul to this condition.
There is often the suggestion that someone should ‘snap out of it’ or ‘look on the bright side’ however those with clinically diagnosed depression will know that it isn’t that straightforward. Due to the variations in severity of depression and the vagueness around causes and cures it is difficult for people to take it seriously though the condition can be improved through medication or therapy. There is no real set timescale as to how long someone will be depressed for though signs someone is depressed can be difficulty sleeping, loss of appetite and difficulty making decisions.
OCD affects both men and women in equal amounts. It is something that begins during puberty or in the early twenties and whilst it is common to have a routine or a certain way of doing something or thinking about something with OCD it is as the name suggests an obsessive compulsion. OCD can be a combination of obsessive and recurring thoughts and a way of repeating an activity like washing your hands or checking you have locked a door.
It is a disorder thought to be brought on by a stressful event or life change like puberty or a new job. Whilst dissenters about the existence of the disease see OCD as an indulgence in the way someone acts it has been found that sufferers have an imbalance of serotonin which is a brain chemical that affects our emotions and moods.
Most people may think that there are only two types of eating disorder which are anorexia and bulimia. However, there are another type of eating disorder that is perhaps more alarming particularly in its affect on mortality. Up to 25 million people are affected by some sort of eating disorder that falls into the EDNOS category however it is only in the last 10-12 years that there has been medical recognition for these ‘grey area’ eating disorders.
Those who binge eat or have unusual eating habits could be diagnosed with EDNOS with the most extreme cases requiring hospitalisation due to blood pressure issues or unhealthy heart rates. By the very fact that an eating disorder can be ‘lost’ under the umbrella of EDNOS means that for many health professionals it is more damaging. Without giving someone a specific name for their condition means that they aren’t as likely to take it as seriously, never mind their wider network and the public.
It is felt that by giving names to more specific disorders will give patients quicker recognition of their condition as well as speed up their access to treatment programmes. Where an eating disorder is not specifically named patients can flounder and also feel as though they are not a priority.