You've Got What? Curious Conditions, Debated Diagnoses

Is Your Bitterness a Medical Condition? 8 Controversial Conditions

Intermittent Explosive Disorder. Oppositional Defiant Disorder. Mathematics Disorder.

If you've never talked to your doctor about these conditions, it should come as little surprise; they are arguably some of the stranger diagnoses floating around in the medical literature. And whatever you might think, many medical professionals say that these disorders are legitimate conditions that often warrant treatment.

Yet, this acceptance within the medical community has not quelled debate on the existence of many of these conditions.

"Illness is always a social construct," notes 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 says. "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, says that some psychiatric conditions, in particular, tend to be a target of widespread controversy.

"In psychiatry, part of a disorder is clinically defined and part is societally defined," he says, 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 says. "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," says 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.

Intermittent Explosive Disorder

Imagine, for a moment, the worst manifestations of aggression: domestic abuse, road rage, a tendency to pick fights for no good reason. While to some, such behavior would constitute a mere personality problem, to others it suggests a psychological condition known as Intermittent Explosive Disorder.

"The way [Intermittent Explosive Disorder] is described right now, it refers to somebody who repeatedly fails to control their aggressive drive," Galynker says. "They may act completely out of proportion to a situation."

And while the diagnosis may sound odd, it may be more common than you think. A June 2006 study funded by the National Institute of Mental Health found that Intermittent Explosive Disorder may affect as many as 7.3 percent of adults in the United States, mostly men.

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