Is Your Bitterness a Medical Condition? 8 Controversial Conditions

Is Your Bitterness a Medical Condition? 8 Controversial Conditions

Post-traumatic embitterment disorder. Intermittent explosive disorder. Mathematics disorder.

These conditions are arguably some of the stranger diagnoses tossed around in medical discourse, so it should come as little surprise if you've never spoken with your doctor about them. But however strange they may seem, many medical professionals say that these disorders are legitimate conditions that can warrant treatment.

Yet, acceptance from part of the medical community has not stopped debates on the existence of many of these conditions.

"Illness is always a social construct," noted Dr. Nortin Hadler, professor of medicine and microbiology/immunology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and author of the book "Worried Sick: A Prescription for Health in an Overtreated America."

"People have to agree -- both people, in general, and those in the medical community -- that a life experience should be labeled an illness," Hadler said. "For example, the Victorians medicalized orgasm, and we medicalize the lack of it."

Dr. Igor Galynker, director of The Family Center for Bipolar Disorder at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York, said that psychiatric conditions in particular tend to attract controversy.

"In psychiatry, part of a disorder is clinically defined and part is societally defined," he said, adding that conditions, such as Attention Deficit Disorder, or ADD, are particularly contentious.

"An ADD diagnosis is very controversial, especially after a recent paper suggested some children with ADD 'grow out' of it at age 25," he said. "That would mean that ADD is a phase in development, rather than a disease. ... It is all fluid."

But not all medical experts believe many of these disorders should be dismissed so readily by the public.

"Individuals should not think these disorders are trivial," said Dr. David Kupfer, a clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, who is part of the team charged with drafting the new Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), a periodically updated compendium of psychological conditions for professional reference. "They are real. By having them in the DSM, hopefully it makes the stigma less."

The following are just a few of the many controversial diagnoses in the medical literature today.

Post-Traumatic Embitterment Disorder

For those who have been laid off from a job, gone through a divorce or had a loved one die, that seething, bitter feeling inside might have a name: Post-Traumatic Embitterment Disorder (PTED).

First identified by German psychiatrist Dr. Michael Linden following the fall of the Berlin Wall in immigrants from East Germany, PTED shares many of its characteristics with post-traumatic stress disorder, with the notable exception that the stress trigger is not life-threatening.

Linden reported in a 2003 article in the journal Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics that people suffering from PTED also suffer significant feelings of injustice, sadness, rage and helplessness, and they dwell on these feelings so much that performance in daily activities suffers.

Dr. Barbara Rothbaum, professor of psychiatry and director of the Trauma and Anxiety Recovery Program at the Emory School of Medicine in Atlanta, pointed out that it may be useful to differentiate between PTED and other types of stress disorders in terms of treatment.

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