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The Social Construction of Fibromyalgia

The Social Construction of Fibromyalgia

“With so many people in so much pain, how could fibromyalgia not be a disease?” (Groopman 3) This question regarding the “condition of persistent muscle pain throughout the body, pain that is often accompanied by severe fatigue, insomnia, diarrhea and abdominal bloating, bladder irritation, and headache,” now known as fibromyalgia raises some rather interesting yet complicated issues in today’s health care field such as: What criteria must be met in order for a symptom or a set of symptoms, as is the case here, to be classified as an illness or a disorder? What does the term illness itself mean? What makes up the concept of health? In this paper, I attempt to tackle these questions by examining the process of the social construction, the medicalization, and the medical uncertainties surrounding fibromyalgia. I will first discuss the process of social construction, or the development of a condition as a disorder, also discussing who the key actors in the process are and how everyone involved in the process is affected. Second, I will analyze the process of medicalization, or how a set of symptoms comes to be known as a disorder, complete with treatment and all, of fibromyalgia over the years. Third, I

Mohamed 2 will look at the medical uncertainties, or doubts about knowledge and treatment, regarding fibromyalgia. Last, I will discuss the possible explanations that have been given to explain fibromyalgia in patients by physicians who are opposed to medicalizing the disorder.
The term fibromyalgia was introduced in 1990, and since then almost six million Americans, ninety per cent of them being women, have been diagnosed as living with the disorder. Physicians are not sure of the exact cause of the illness, but many of the cases are reported immediately after a traumatic event (Groopman 3). Another puzzling issue here is the absence of any muscular inflammation in the complaining patient or the presence of any abnormal laboratory test results or X-rays. So is it possible for six million patients to be “fooling” physicians? You might have another illness of your own requiring another one of these papers if you’re even considering that absurd idea! Let us begin by defining illness and health. “Modern medicine is based on and dominated by concepts, methods, an...

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...ikely to see a doctor for non-serious health problems” (Brown 43). These physicians also argue that patients become trapped in beliefs that they have an illness, allowing the beliefs to affect them psychologically, worsening their symptoms as a result of stress and depression.
The social construction of fibromyalgia is a quite complicated issue and requires much research. Social constructions are not always this difficult, but the general two paths seem to always be there: Should physicians medicalize a set of symptoms into a disorder or disease, and attempt to treat the illness, or should they attempt to figure out the underlying causes of the symptoms and try not to medicalize something which doesn’t need medicalization? Both arguments about fibromyalgia are strong, and both are backed up by valid claims, although each does have its positive and negative aspects. The social construction of illnesses in the medical field is an extremely assiduous task and requires years of dedication, time and research before final decisions are made. They must be made carefully, since they will affect millions and millions of people.

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