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on 28 May 2011
Deja Vu.

Elaine Showalter, a prof. of literature and self-described feminist, wrote the same nonsense in the 1980s in Hystories. It's even more disgusting, anti-women, anti-disabled and anti-science that Asti Hustvedt a literature scholar who seems to think of herself as a feminist writes the same misrepresentations in 2011.

Hustvedt claims that ME/CFIDS (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/ Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction Syndrome) is mere hysteria (see quote from book below). According to Anthony Komoroff, professor of infectious disease at Harvard Med School, there are "over 5,000 articles" in peer reviewed medical journals show significant biological pathology (disease) in ME.

Her position, laid out in the first chapter and epilogue, is that "CFS" is not caused by biology, but instead is psychogenic; it is hysteria. She says that Charcot was a neurologist and that he felt there was an organic origin to hysteria. But she notes that every autopsy he did of hysterics showed no pathology in the brain or spinal cord. She also claims no biological abnormalities in "CFS" and implies that Charcot's belief that hysteria was somatogenic was wrong- that hysteria, including "CFS", is in fact psychological. Like Wessely, he claims that the reason we claim biological origin is that we don't want to be revealed to be head cases and assigned to the psych ward.

As I have written about Showalter "An Literature scholar applying literary criticism to medical disease is, of course, ridiculous. I'm scratching my head over why she would just write down what came to mind about a disease she doesn't bother to research and then publish it. And why anyone would bother to read it. Bizarre."

For the true story of ME, get the absolutely amazing Osler's Web: Inside the Labyrinth of the Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Epidemic.

From the first chapter: "There is, however, a crop of bizarre new illnesses that, like hysteria, afflict mostly young women and stubbornly resist biological explanation. No drug exists to cure anorexia, bulimia, self-mutilation, chronic fatigue syndrome, and multiple personality disorder, and no genetic flaw has been found to explain them. Furthermore, as was true for hysteria, these contemporary disorders are thought to be contagious, spread by suggestion, imitation, and therapy...
The cultural and historical homologies between hysteria and these present-day diseases are so detailed and undeniable that it would be accurate to categorize them all as incarnations of hysteria."
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on 20 July 2011
If the author thinks that ME/CFS is an example of hysteria then she goes against a huge and growing amount of evidence to suggest a real biological basis for the condition and she is giving support to those who seek to prevent research being done into the real causes and cure of this condition. I wish people like this would actually do some proper research before publishing such nonsense and consider the harm they may be doing to genuine sufferers. What an idiot! Shame on you!
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on 28 May 2011
"...I'm not a chronic fatigue doctor, but I have learned a lot about chronic fatigue in the last six months and have spoken to a lot of patients. I'm absolutely convinced that when you define this disease by proper criteria, this is a very serious and significant medical disease, and not a psychological disease. It has the characteristics of a viral disease. It usually starts with a viral-like illness. If XMRV is not the causative agent--and it may well not be--there is still need by other groups to look for the next agent which may be the cause."

(Harvey Alter, co-discoverer of Hepatitis C and currently involved in ongoing research into a possible retroviral association with CFS, speaking at the [U.S.] Blood Products Advisory Committee Meeting, December 14, 2010. Several countries, including the U.S., now ban people with CFS from donating blood.)

Asti Hustvedt has succumbed to the very forces of culturally enforced repression that she ostensibly deplores. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, also known as Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, and categorized by the W.H.O. as a neurological disease, has been framed as a psychiatric illness by a small cabal of psychiatrists and their institutional enablers, both government and academic. They are the disseminators of a particularly destructive, willfully ignorant trope that has deprived very sick people of both care and medical research; Hustvedt's view, and others like it, have perpetuated what amounts to human rights abuses.
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on 28 May 2011
"The sufferers of chronic fatigue syndrome are not misguided in their insistence that a virus, or a chemical, or something concrete either in their bodies or the environment is causing their suffering. Without that, they are cast aside as complainers who take time away from doctors who have patients with "real" conditions to see."--p.304

This patronizing and irresponsible comment suggests Hustvedt is unaware that there is serious biomedical research into chronic fatigue syndrome. Like Elaine Showalter, she takes a controversial psychosocial interpretation of chronic fatigue syndrome as proven fact. Chronic fatigue syndrome patients want effective medical treatment, not hand-holding.
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