Take This Test To See If You Suffer From The Heartbreak of…Overdiagnosis

I read the section in Yahoo Health about anxiety (listed on the front page as one of the top ten health topics), and by the end, I’ve got to tell you, my palms were sweating. Every so often there is a massive drug-company (boo, hiss) marketing push for a new usage for an existing drug. The ads that work best are the ones that can convince people they’ve got a problem they never knew about before. If you’re going to rope in the most vulnerable people concerned citizens possible, then you’ve got to make the symptoms either 1) so common that no one can say they’ve never had them, or 2) vague.

Cosmo-type questionnaires are the mainstay of drug company ad hacks—

Do You Suffer From The Heartbreak of Gurleyitis?

1) When lying in a supine position on the sofa, do you—

a. have an urge for beer and pretzels?

b. after three hours, feel stiff in the neck and shoulder region?

c. after two days, get a dull headache and notice a smell?

If you answered yes to any of the above, see your doctor about important treatment information.

Sound familiar?

I work in a homeless clinic. We had an actual discussion at a provider meeting about whether or not we were undertreating anxiety. While there are many valid points that could be argued on the topic, I found myself distracted by the idea that, if you’re living on the street with no food or money, dodging rapists, and avoiding thugs (both uniformed and civilian), then being anxious might actually be (drumroll, please) normal.

Maybe even helpful. What is “normal” in an abnormal world? How do you decide who is hypervigilant, instead of just trying to survive?

So, here’s the deal, let’s just sedate them, why don’t we? Heck, I overhead someone say, if we’re talking about prescribing drugs in order to improve a homeless patient’s quality of life, a prescription for Klonopin at least might give them a new income stream…

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