September 25th, 2012
Jennie Spotila/Occupy CFS
When it comes to press coverage of CFS and XMRV, there is a pervasive
mental illness meme that must be addressed. It goes something like
XMRV/viruses do not cause ME/CFS. Therefore, it could be a mental illness.
Patients strongly object to characterization of ME/CFS as a mental
illness. A small number of patients get nasty, make threats, or make
This crazy behavior by a small number of patients proves the point
that ME/CFS could be a mental illness.
The strong resistance by ME/CFS patients to the mental illness
explanation must come from society's belief that mental illness is not
"real" or "legitimate" illness.
The small number of extremists are to blame for researchers, doctors,
and journalists not wanting to touch the illness with a ten foot pole.
After the publication of the Lipkin study last week, there were
several articles along these lines. The meme is particularly common in
the British press, including articles in The Telegraph and The Daily
Mail. Predictably, the comments on these articles follow the pattern
of patients strongly objecting to the mental illness meme and offering
physiological evidence that refutes it, and others claiming that the
absence of biological evidence proves that patients are suffering from
exaggerated lethargy or a desire to avoid reality. Things generally
spin out of control from there. But I think getting caught in the
meme's whirlpool misses the point; let's pick apart the meme's logic.
The full post can be read here: