The Myth of Diagnosis

By TJ Williams, DC, PhD

Many people mistakenly believe that if you know the name of your disease, you know what’s wrong with you. This myth is pervasive throughout medicine, and it is THE single biggest obstacle to changing the way we do things and finding the answers to our health problems.

The problem is simply this—we are in the naming and blaming game in medicine. It is what most doctors have been trained to do. Find the name of the “disease,” then match the drug/treatment to the disease. You have “depression,” so you need an “antidepressant.” You are “anxious;” you need an “anti-anxiety” medication. You have bipolar disease or mood swings, so you need a “mood stabilizer.”

Unfortunately, this approach or method of thinking is outdated, increasingly useless, and often dangerous. Once you have a label, you are put in the group of people who have the same label, and it is assumed you carry the attributes of this group.

For example, a group of psychologists, psychiatrists, and lawyers headed by Dr. Rosenbaum, a Stanford University professor of law and psychology, pretended to be hearing voices and got themselves admitted to psychiatric hospitals across the country. Once they were admitted to the hospitals, they resumed acting normally. The hospital staff and physicians then viewed all their “normal behavior” such as note taking, as “abnormal.” It was only the regular “crazy” patients who could tell them apart.

The same thing happens to you once a doctor assigns you a label—you have depression, fibromyalgia, ADHD, dementia—we throw you in the same group with everyone else who has that diagnosis and assume you all have the same problem, even if evidence is found that you don’t necessarily suffer from exactly the same problem.

But these labels or diagnoses are just names we associate with a collection of symptoms. This name has NOTHING to do with WHY you have those symptoms—with the root causes of the “disease.” The future of medicine is personalized treatment, not “one-size-fits-all.” The outdated method of naming the disease and then assigning a drug to fix it clearly isn’t working.

Unfortunately, few in the medical industry today seem to understand this. The truth is that conventional medicine is virtually predicated on the myth of diagnosis.

I want to help you understand how serious this problem is. It is not trivial because it changes EVERYTHING about how we think about disease and what to do about it.

The truth is that very few fundamental problems exist that explain nearly every disease. It doesn’t matter what specialty your disease falls under. As Pierre Laplace said, a very few fundamental laws can explain an extraordinary number of very complex phenomena.

These underlying problems are the link between most chronic diseases. In almost every disease, the same few things go wrong. And those same few problems are all interconnected. One affects the other in a giant web of biology. Pull on one part of the web and the whole web moves. The web is built on a small number of keys to true lasting wellness. These keys are the underlying causes of ALL illness.

The new roadmap of functional medicine turns the myth of diagnosis on its head, and in doing so reveals one of the most radical concepts that emerges from this new medical approach: The name of the disease bears little relationship to the cause of the disease.

One disease caused by multiple factors, one factor that causes multiple diseases? How could this happen? It completely upsets our current thinking. And it should! But the reason this is true is simpler than you might think.

We are all unique, biochemically and genetically, and have different responses to the same insults. In one person gluten may cause arthritis, in another, it can cause depression. Depression may be caused by gluten in one person; in another, it may be caused by B12 deficiency.

The beauty of Functional Medicine is that it takes these factors into account to help create health for each individual.

Medicine has been looking in the wrong place for answers. Finally, science has provided a gateway to a different way of thinking about mental illness and brain disorders. We need to get out of the “name it, blame it, and tame it” game —the myth of diagnosis—and start thinking about how the body works, how to personalize our approach, and how to not suppress symptoms but to restore normal function.

If you would like more information regarding functional medicine or any of the treatments, therapies, or services offered at The Institute of Natural Health, please contact us at (314) 293-8123 or visit us at the theinstituteofnaturalhealth.com. Dr. TJ Williams is the Clinic Director for the Institute of Natural Health and the host of the radio program Wellness 101, which provides common-sense, science-based strategies for a healthy life. Wellness 101 airs Sundays at 3:00pm on FM NewsTalk 97.1.