Index to "Fad" Diagnoses
Stephen Barrett, M.D.
What Is a "Fad" Diagnosis?
The American Heritage Dictionary defines "fad" as "a fashion that is taken up with great enthusiasm for a brief period of time; a craze." At least 25 diagnostic labels classifiable as fads have been in vogue during the past fifty years. Some refer to actual disease (which the patients do not have), whereas others are not recognized by the scientific community. Some unscientific practitioners apply one or more of these diagnoses to almost every patient they see. In many cases, they use nonstandard laboratory tests to "diagnose" them and recommend "dietary supplements" or "detoxification" to treat them. In a few cases, the "diagnoses" have been concocted by marketers of dietary supplements or devices.
Not Scientifically Defined or Recognized
These alleged conditions differ greatly from those of medically recognized diseases such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and coronary heart disease, each of which is associated with a clear-cut history, physical findings, and laboratory tests. With these, however, the range of symptoms is virtually endless and typically does not correlate with physical findings or science-based laboratory tests.
- Amalgam toxicity (also called "mercury illness")
- Candidiasis hypersensitivity ("yeast allergy")
- Cavitational osteopathosis: Also called neuralgia-inducing cavitational osteonecrosis (NICO)
- Chronic inflammatory response syndrome (CIRS)
- Electrical hypersensitivity (also called electromagnetic hypersensitivity)
- Enzyme deficiency (generalized)
- Gulf War syndrome
- Leaky gut syndrome
- Male menopause (link to another site)
- Mercury efflux disorder
- Morgellon's disease
- Multiple chemical sensitivity
- Pyroluria (link to another site)
- Reward Deficiency Syndrome (RDS)
- Sick building syndrome (link to another site)
- Vertebral subluxation complex
- Wilson's syndrome
Scientifically Recognized But Inappropriately Diagnosed
These conditions are recognized as diseases but are said to be present when they are not. Some are common, whereas others are rare. Most can be appropriately diagnosed with the help of laboratory tests. However, some doctors base their diagnoses on inappropriate tests or do no testing.
- Adrenal insufficiency (sometimes called "adrenal fatigue")
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Food allergies and sensitivities
- Growth hormine deficiency
- Heavy metal toxicity
- Lyme disease
- Parasites (including so-called "rope worms")
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- "Toxic mold"
Nonexistent Conditions Concocted By Product Marketers
Dubious Psychological Labels
- Attachment disorder
- Indigo child
- Nature deficit disorder
- Sensory integration disorder (SID) (also called sensory processing disorder (SPD)
Recipe for a New Fad Disease
This page was revised on February 9. 2017.