It’s Not All In Your Head: Morgellons And Other Diseases

Today I read an interesting post from Io9, a site that specializes in sci-fi and fantasy (and their reality counterparts in weird science), and they had an insightful article, taken from the Guardian (a notable English newspaper) about a disease called Morgellons that I had never heard of [1]. A brief summary of the disease is as follows, as it’s difficult to understand—people complain of uncontrollable itching in their skin and have a fiber that is unlike any other fiber that scientists have ever imagined coming out of their skin where the itch is located.

What makes the disease especially troubling is that the medical establishment believes that the disease is imaginary, a mental problem, leaving those who suffer from this mysterious malady to be consiered delusional rather than having their suffering honestly faced, with the mysterious ignorance that comes along with it. At least the people who suffer from Morgellons have one scientist on their side—a rare scientist who specializes in itches, who believes firmly that the disease is in fact a real one caused by some kind of neural “itch response” issue, and not merely delusions. The scientists asked for samples, got them, and found them to be completely unique, and also unable to burn.

However, in other cases there appears to be a haywire neural function in the itch response that causes people to believe they have insect on them when they don’t, because they feel the same response. It seems quite possible that Morgellons is a name for a variety of related skin maladies, some of it fiber related and some related to neurological malfunctions. What it does not seem to be is merely psychological.

And that is relevant because Morgellons is hardly the only disease that faces the stigma of being labeled as a mental disorder rather than addressed in an honest manner by medical practitioners. Another disease with a similar profile is Epstein-Barr Syndrome, otherwise known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, a disease I know because I have family members who suffer from the diease and have to deal with the labeling that comes from diseases that are not entirely understood.

It would seem to me that in the case of Epstein-Barr that a possible explanation for the disease related also to the neurological response to prolonged anxiety and stress that reaches such a level and such a prolonged nature that the body’s mental facilities are overwhelmed. The fatigue would seem to result from the brain being worn out from constant vigilance. It could therefore be seen as a physiological result of prolonged suffering from PTSD as a result of trauma. Therefore physical or emotional trauma causes psycological stress that in turn causes real physiological damage to the body. The mind and body are interconnected, and interdependent, and what harms one can cause harm to the other.

What these disease both have in common, though, is that both are related to the brain. Since the human brain is still somewhat of a black box to scientists (and even more so to doctors), there is the tendency to pooh-pooh people who suffer from genuine problems which have as yet unknown neurological pathways. The labeling of the symptoms as merely psychosomatic harms, and seeks to prevent or forestall, the search for actual physiological pathways that might interact with the “mind” in unexpected ways. But we owe it to people who genuinely suffer to take their suffering seriously, not to label them as crazy simply because we do not know why they suffer as they do. There is much we do not understand, and much humility we ought to show in the face of our ignorance.

[1] http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2011/may/07/morgellons-mysterious-illness?utm_source=io9+Newsletter&utm_campaign=47b59ca607-UA-142218-29&utm_medium=email

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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3 Responses to It’s Not All In Your Head: Morgellons And Other Diseases

  1. Very well put, thank you. I have both diseases. There is a lot more to Morgellons than itchiness and fibers, though. It destroys lives, something itching can’t do. It’s painful, fibromyalgia on steroids. It’s like chronic fatigue, but stronger. It’s deep inside. But I believe I have it because of the stress of having had chronic Epstein-Barr for a lifetime, and working through it, carrying on without rest. I think Morgellons is a last scream for help. I’ m hopeful, though. I’ve been reading a lot, talking to people, and right now I am hoping that a boost in glutathianone will help me. There is a genotype, ApoE4, that makes people less able to produce it, and it they don’t have it in their cells they will be tired I’ll be taking supplements for thand sick. Could run in your family.is problem, and possibly doing the gene test.

    • That is very troubling. Epstein-Barrs and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome do run in my family. It would appear, as with so many other matters, that both environment and genetics play a role. A genetic problem that would make the body less resilient combined with a difficult environment stating from childhood would then lead to great suffering from a body taxed far beyond its capabilities. Thanks for your comments, though this is a matter I will have to examine far more, as it relates to my own potential threat of suffering from it in the future, if what you say is true.

  2. Pingback: A Week To Remember, A Week To Forget | Edge Induced Cohesion

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