Friday, February 9, 2018

ME/CFS, NLP and the Lightning Process™ in the Looking Glass

ME/CFS, NLP and the Lightning Process™ in the Looking Glass
by Nancy Blake
Positive Health issue 244 - February 2018

Some extracts:

"Now suppose you have a broken leg, and I am so good at NLP trance
induction that I can stop you feeling the pain.

If I do this, so you start walking on it and don't bother to get it
set and in a cast, you are going to end up with a terribly deformed
and constantly painful leg. Ethical?"


"If you use NLP techniques to get rid of a headache that is caused by
a brain tumour, your 'help' may mean the patient doesn't bother to get
it properly diagnosed, and could cost him his life."


"The judgement about the use of NLP for the treatment of ME/CFS hinges
on whether we believe the psychiatric model…that the original viral
illness is completely over, and exercise is avoided because of
irrational fears…or the medical model which observes the continuing
relapses following exertion and concludes that this is evidence of a
continuing latent infection."


The presuppositions of the Lightning Process™ are the ones which
underpin Cognitive Behaviour Therapy and Graded Exercise Therapy: that
ME/CFS involves only thoughts and beliefs which, if changed, can
result in recovery. The patients' belief that there is an underlying
physical cause, and that exertion can do actual damage is considered
to be false. Treatment, therefore, can be successful if (and only if)
this belief can be eradicated.

The Lightning Process differs from CBT/GET in that adds the use of NLP
techniques to change beliefs and encourage the patient to give up his
protective energy-conserving behaviour, his physical aids, and
enthusiastically engage in exercise.

This would make it very effective indeed if the patient's symptoms
were caused only by unhelpful thought processes.

It makes it potentially harmful if the patient's problems are in fact
caused by a pathogen which is stimulated by exertion, and which the
immune system can only fight effectively if the patient rests so that
all his physical energy is available for the immune system.


In relation to ME/CFS, what are the 'impossible things' one must
believe (and what must one refuse to believe) in order to maintain the
view that ME/CFS is, in Simon Wessely's words, "nothing more than the
belief that one has (ME)"?[4]


You have to believe that people with no previous history of a mental
health problem or of undue complaining about their health, and no
preceding traumatic event other than a mild flu can become completely
incapacitated within days, and continue to be so, simply because of
negative thought patterns about minor symptoms.

You have to believe that intelligent, highly educated, successful
professional people, including professional athletes, can suddenly,
for no apparent reason, become extreme hypochondriacs, whose reports
about their illness are either false or exaggerated.

You have to believe that for such people, the 'secondary gains' of
assuming the role of invalid are somehow greater than loss of their
profession, their income, their home, and often their families.

You have to disbelieve what patients report about their experience,
even though patient descriptions of this very complex disease are
similar across historical periods and disparate geographical
locations. Patient experience, although varied in some ways,
consistently reports that exertion brings on worsening symptoms, and
that continued exertion brings on more permanent and serious relapse.

You have to believe that encouraging or coercing patients into doing
something which is known to make them worse is a 'safe and effective'
way to cure their illness.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

How Sexism is hindering medical research

February 7 2018 - 12:00AM

How sexism is hindering medical research
Naomi Chainey

As recently as 1921, MS (multiple sclerosis) was erroneously
considered more common in men. By the late 1940s, a more even gender
split was presumed. By 1960 it was posited that women might actually
be slightly more prone to the condition. With the invention of the MRI
- a more objective diagnostic method - we now understand MS to be
three to four times more common in women.

So, back when physicians were making their diagnoses based on symptoms
rather than scans, why was MS being missed in women? The answer,
perhaps predictably, is that when men and women presented to
clinicians with similar symptoms, men were likely to be diagnosed with
an organic illness, while women were more vulnerable to a misdiagnosis
of hysteria.

Popular late 19th and early 20th century treatments for MS involved
antibiotics, syphilis medication or blood coagulants, while hysteria
was treated with vibrators (yes, vibrators), hypnosis, or, if you were
very unlucky, an insane asylum, so regardless of diagnosis, no one was
receiving effective medical care. The gendered assumptions would have
had a social impact, however, and indicate that men were historically
considered more reliable as witnesses to the functioning of their own
bodies than women.

As well as being a cautionary tale on condescending, paternalistic
medical approaches to women, misperceptions about the male to female
ratio of MS have had implications for medical research. Sex disparity
in an illness can provide a starting point for unravelling the
mechanisms behind it, and scientists now believe that high levels of
testosterone may be protecting men from the disease.

"This is why it's vital to study sex differences in research," says
Melissa Brown, PhD, the lead researcher on a recent study from
Northwestern Medicine demonstrating that testosterone causes a cascade
of reactions in male mice. These eventually prevent the development of
the immune cells which attack the myelin in people with MS.

It's a discovery which could never had been made had we continued in
the belief that MS was more common in men, which begs two questions:
How much earlier might this discovery had been made if women had been
diagnosed correctly from the start, and what gendered assumptions are
we still making that might be standing in the way of similar

My own condition, ME/CFS (also called myalgic encephalomyelitis or
chronic fatigue syndrome), is, like MS, up to four times more common
in women and shares other characteristics such as immune, cognitive
and gut dysfunction, intermittent paralysis, fatigue and chronic pain.

ME/CFS was labelled hysteria as recently as 1970 by two psychiatrists
whose logic went: "there is little evidence of organic disease
affecting the central nervous system and epidemic hysteria is a much
more likely explanation. The data which support this hypothesis are
the high attack rate in females compared with males."

The paper they published had a significant impact on the research that
followed, with scientists focused on discovering biological causes
finding that their funding had dried up and governments prioritising
research into psychiatric interventions (research now being held up to
unfavourable scrutiny by the scientific community).

As it was with MS, new technology is now unravelling the biological
mysteries of ME/CFS. However, it was only last year that the CDC
finally removed its recommendation that patients engage in psychiatric
interventions. Those interventions remain the standard in Australia
with claims for the Disability Support Pension and NDIS routinely
rejected if applicants have not engaged in (often) expensive, debunked

People with ME/CFS are not the only ones impacted by the ongoing
dismissal of women's perception of their own health.

In her paper for the Berkeley Journal of Gender Law and Justice "The
Resurrection of Female Hysteria in Present-Day ERISA Disability Law"
lawyer Cassie Springer-Sullivan states: "Although I represent women
and men with many different disabilities, I have been surprised to
find that many of the disabled women who come to my firm seeking legal
representation suffer from illnesses that are typically labeled
"women's illnesses," such as fibromyalgia and lupus … I believe that
this is because disability insurers often presume (incorrectly, in my
experience) that women suffering from these types of illnesses are
magnifying their symptoms or just have a low pain tolerance."

In addition to saving money for insurance companies, the widespread
downplaying of women's pain continues to result in delayed diagnosis
and treatment. Upon presentation to an emergency room it still takes
women 16 minutes longer than men to receive an analgesic for acute
abdominal pain. A diagnosis of endometriosis, a painful condition
impacting women's reproductive organs, still takes a whopping average
of 7.5 years from the time symptoms first present, as complaints are
consistently attributed to normal menstrual function.

While women with a variety of ills may find themselves subject to
dismissive assumptions about our experience of pain, it's important to
note that hysteria itself is not just a relic of a less enlightened
historical medical practice. It's gone through a facelift and a name
change, but people who present with unexplained neurological
complaints may still be diagnosed with conversion or somatoform
disorders, the assumption being that if current technology can't find
the cause, symptoms must be psychological.

It's estimated that women are up to 10 times more likely to receive
the diagnosis than men.

I wonder how this will be viewed next century.

* * * * * *
When I first got sick, my boss and I had similar symptoms; mine were worse.  His doctor took him seriously, even putting him on a plane to another city for further testing; mine assumed that the initial normal test results meant I was faking because my husband wouldn't let me quit my job, and saw no need for further testing, even when I asked for a specific test.

Comparing notes several months into the process, we sat in stunned silence, just staring at each other -- society may have been starting to treat women as equals, but doctors were still stuck in the mindset that all women secretly want to be housewives.

Even in the current millennium, I still run into doctors who think women don't want to work and will lie to get out of having to do it.  The idea of a careerwoman appears foreign to them.  And they still won't do a test specifically requested.