Chemical Sensitivity: Real Or Imaginary?
Posting Date: 01/27/1999
Yan: I have a friend who came down with some kind chemical sensitivity a couple of years ago. Is this kind of thing imagined or real?
Dr. Dean: I think it is not real. There are people who think they are sensitive and that their symptoms are due to micro amounts of various chemicals. It is an easy thing to study, and we have studied it upside down and backwards.
For instance, we've introduced to a person the chemical they said they were sensitive to - and if they didn't know it, they did not react. We've placed a bag full of plastic under the chair of someone who said they can't get within 20 feet of plastic - and when they don't know about it, they don't react.
There have been many carefully-done studies about this, and the findings were that the vast majority of these people have had at least one significant psychiatric diagnosis in the past.
We call this somatizing. We all do it to some degree - taking anxiety or stress and exaggerating symptoms that are real that we all have.
Like, if most of us feel a little fatigued, we say, "Oh, I'm tired. I'm working too hard." But if these people feel a little fatigued, they say, "Oh - these modern chemicals are getting to me."
Well, I'd certainly rather have a psychosomatic illness and be able to fix it (which can be done) than have an unknown illness that science doesn't have any knowledge of that will cripple me forever.
By the way, there are people who think they need to breathe into an oxygen tank - well, there is nothing as filthy as the inside of an oxygen tank. And these people put plastic masks on.
Some people have claimed to be disabled with multiple chemical sensitivities and so the federal government has paid for their "environmentally friendly" dwellings, with steel beams and no out-gassing items anywhere, and then sooner or later they hated these apartments and were sleeping in their cars.
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