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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Think twice before you ‘syndromize’

    Courtney Smithwire editor
    Courtney Smith
    wire editor

    For all of you who have struggled to keep your middle finger in check, to refrain from slamming your fist into the horn and to avoid shouting censorable obscenities when confronted with the unfortunate reality that, in fact, Helen Keller is alive and driving in Tucson, you are finally off the hook.

    A National Institute of Health funded study, released Monday in the June issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry, claims that five to seven percent of Americans suffer from “”intermittent explosive disorder””- a form of destructive, uncontrolled anger.

    As a result of this study, about 16 million Americans no longer have to rage alone – they are a part of a greater community. Once oppressed by the guilt brought on by excessive property damage and broken noses, they now can receive treatment in the form of serotonin-targeted antidepressants aimed at eliminating the battle they have long waged with this disorder. Despite all the benefits of this recent research, I am still skeptical.

    I am in no way insinuating that people aren’t actually suffering from door slamming, people pushing, put-your-hand-through-the-door-because-they-forgot -the-vanilla-in-your-coffee-once-again outbursts. But before we spend millions of dollars of government grant money on disease and disorder research aimed at alleviating an ailing population, let’s get our priorities straight.

    For starters, we all could benefit from over-the-counter eyedrops or perhaps a dietary supplement that prevents misplaced-car-key malady. I know I could personally use a healthy dose of anti-nail bite serum. Medical intervention could finally free us from the terrible fashion taste epidemic that has plagued our nation for decades. And I know a few students whose lives would be revolutionized if only modern science could figure out a way to surgically remove the cell phone masquerading as their extra extremity.

    We have come to expect science to provide us with a cure-all: a magic pill for whatever we are convinced ails us.

    Obviously, these hyperbolized examples are extreme. But this doesn’t negate the absurd rate at which normal, everyday behaviors are being classified as medical diseases.

    This tendency for the scientific community to medicalize every human process and behavior has not only exonerated “”sufferers”” from the guilt associated with their behavior, but more significantly, has led to the creation of an even bigger epidemic – it seems that an entire society is now suffering from MPS, more commonly known as “”Magic Pill Syndrome.””

    We expect medical intervention to curb our anger, enhance our academic performance, harden our erections, make us thinner and remove our body hair and to make us happy.

    Science has become our highest authority. We have come to expect science to provide us with a cure-all: a magic pill for whatever we are convinced ails us.

    And convinced we are. For drug companies, “”Magic Pill Syndrome”” is the most profitable of all ailments. Convincing essentially healthy individuals that they are sick or their health condition is even slightly abnormal is very big business. How big? In 2003 alone, 3 billion dollars were spent by the pharmaceutical industry on mass media advertising, according to Dr. John Abramson’s book, “”Overdosed America.””

    In highlighting our culture’s relatively recent overvaluation of medicine, I am in no way attempting to downplay the real role medicine can play in our healthcare. Many people could not function on a daily basis without the unquestionable contributions to health made by modern medicine. What I am saying is that you should think twice before letting others “”syndromize”” your behavior.

    Even if they tell you that you exhibit all the symptoms – enraged foot-stomping, high blood pressure and even uncontrollable ear steam, your best bet may not be to run to the doctor and demand a prescription – maybe all you need to do is simply replace your absent-minded barista.

    Courtney Smith is a Molecular and Cellular Biology senior. She can be reached at

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