Dr Lowe Q&A Psychology
August 19, 2007
Question: I sent you a question by email, and the next day I saw something that horrified me. You posted my question about my personal medical problem to your website at AskDrLowe@drlowe.com. Im shocked and disappointed that you obviously have no concern that my family and friends might know that Im the person who wrote to you. Dont you care about peoples privacy? How can you claim to want to help people but then put them at risk of embarrassment this way?
Dr. Lowe: I care a great deal about other peoples privacy, and I avoid any potentially embarrassing disclosure of information people send to me at AskDrLowe@drlowe.com. For the reason I give below, your upset is not warranted, and I hope you calm down after reading it.
When I wake up from sleep (usually in the early morning hours, and then again after a nap before my clinic duties start), my first action is usually to turn on my computer. Then I go online to read the new emails at AskDrLowe@drlowe.com, where I found yours. Some days I see only a few new emails, and others days I find upwards toward a hundred.
Among the new emails, I first look for ones that suggest the writers may be suicidal. I answer those first. I give their questions top priority because I feel that its imperative to quickly give them any hope or practical help I can.
Next, I look for another category of emails: those that contain virtually the same question as several other emails Ive read that morningor, sometimes, many other emails Ive received over the last month or so. Some days, five, ten, or more emails contain practically the same question, often word-for-word. I give the question in these emails second priority. I do this because I assume answering multiple emails containing the same question gives me the chance to do something important: save time writing different versions of the same answer, and, through a single answer, help more than one person at once.
When I answer these multiple emails AskDrLowe@drlowe.com, I dont, of course, post all the peoples emails along with my answer. As I said, the authors of the emails ask basically the same question. It would be repetitious to my readers to read all the emails.
To answer the question the writers have asked, I often select one of the emails – the one that most clearly expresses the question all have asked. Sometimes I post the authors email exactly as he or she wrote it. But most of the time, I edit the question (as little as possible) for two reasons: to make it concise, and to make sure it clearly expresses the specific concern of all the writers.
On the day I opened and read your question, Id received several others that asked basically the same question. That question in the other emails could have been written by you almost verbatim. As it happened, however, I did not use your email as the one to edit and answer.
You seem to feel that you and your health problem are widely known by the general publicso much so that describing the problem is, to you, certain to reveal your identity, and, as a result, were all sure to see your picture on the front page of the Inquirer as we stand in line at supermarket checkout counters. Of course, you may be Brad Pitt or Bill Clinton. If so, please understand that scores of thousands of others share exactly the health problem you have. That assures your anonymity. This is especially true in that I didnt publish your name in the Q&A, and the question in the Q&A isnt in your rather distinct writing style. I regret your upset, but this matter is really nothing for you to be upset about.
December 15, 2003
Comment: How grateful I am to have received your recent newsletter concerning possible problems that flu shots may cause fibromyalgia patients. My progress under your treatment program for the last several months has been the best Ive had in years. Until two weeks ago, my symptoms were noticeably improved. For this, your metabolic rehab deserves much praise.
For the past two weeks, however, Ive been very ill and very depressed. After reading your newsletter, I now know why. It was the flu shot I was given.
When I complained to the doctor, he covered himself by telling me I had a psychological reaction to the shot. He said its myth that people have negative reactions to flu shots. This mental castigation from doctors when we dont respondlike textbook examples hurts very much. If we dont agree, or if our bodies dont respond as they expect, we’re just crazy. Thats such a nasty cop-out for doctors.
How or where does a doctor who is not a specialist in psychology get the right tomentally diagnose patients? The rule seems to be, if you disagree with your doctor, you’re not in your right mind.
Nevertheless, your article has taken a great weight off my mind. It was timely and supportive, so thank you worlds for it. When I get over these symptoms caused bythe flu shot, Im going to stick to your program harder than ever. Many blessings to you all for your excellent research and your courage to present your findings honestly to the public.
Dr. Lowe: Im happy that the article in our newsletter provided an explanation for your illness and depression of the last two weeks, and Im happy that the explanation gave you some mental relief.
Its unfortunate that when you confronted your doctor, he stooped to psychobabble. He had the opportunity to enhance his professional image by intelligently discussing with you potential harmful effects of flu shots. Most likely, though, he had something to hide from you, such as ignorance of the issue you raised. By sidestepping the issue and prattling about psychological effects, he mayeven have hid his ignorance from himself. You obviously found his conduct insulting to your intelligence, and that is entirely appropriate.
Your needs as a patient might best be served if you replace this doctor with one less fettered by psychological defenses. Thanks for letting us know you found the article on flu shots helpful.
August 4, 2003
Criticism: I wrote you a question about my low back pain last week and sent it to you three times since then, but you have ignored it. You obviously give attention just to people who come to your clinic and pay money out of their pockets. All you care about is a [sic] almighty dollar. I am praying to God that you get low back pain because you are a bastard who is not sensitive to other peoples pain.
Dr. Lowe: In view of your low back pain and the time needed to send and resend your e-mail question, Im sorry you troubled yourself by praying to God that I get low back pain. It was needless, since I already have low back from sitting at my computer for hours answering e-mailed questions, although yours wasnt included.
I read your e-mail a couple of days after your first sent it, but I didnt answer it for a specific reason: In answering e-mail questions, we operate on the principle of triage, answering first those that seem most urgent. I dont for a second negate the importance of getting rid of your back pain, but I always give top priority to e-mails from people who seem suicidal. I also give high priority to questions from other people, such as those scheduled within days for what appears to be needlesssurgery. We get more e-mails from such people than you might imagine.
And, yes, we do give priority to people whove scheduled appointments for phone consultations or visits to our clinic. Its a non sequitur, though, to infer from this that my only motive is financial. You see, we must give priority attention to people whove scheduled appointments. If we dont, economic reality will soon make it impossible for us to gratuitously help others through cost-free answers to their e-mail questions and regular updates to our access-free educational website. If you still want me to answer your question about your low back pain, Ill be happy to do so. But, of course, youll have to wait your proper turn.
December 22, 2002
Question: My family doctor has treated me no success for fibromyalgia with amitriptyline and some other drugs. Since my fibromyalgia hasnt gotten better, and I also have chronic headaches, he referred me to a neurologist. The neurologist spent about fifteen minutes examining and talking with me. He told me that fibromyalgia is caused by emotional conflicts patients have pushed out of memory. He said he was going to refer me to a psychiatrist. I got angry and left.
Aside from my fibromyalgia and headaches, Im as mentally well adjusted as anybody else I know. Now my family doctor is upset with me for being rude to his neurologist friend. I told him I read in your book how unscientific that kind of psycho babble is, and if he doesnt want to treat me anymore, Ill find a new family doctor. Im not a doctor, but I have better sense than to listen to doctors who think that way. Why do doctors like the neurologist keep telling patients that kind of crap?
Lowe: The concept that repressed, unresolved emotional conflicts cause disease is Freuds reformulation of a Middle Age beliefthat demons cause disease. “Hysteria” is the name he gave the imaginary psychopathological process. He wrote that in formulating the concept, he substituted his id, ego, and superego forthe hypothetical disease-causing demons of the dark ages.
The concept is a mixture of metaphysics and pseudoscience and has no scientific credibility. In the US, its mainly some neurologists, psychiatrists, and personal-injury chiropractic physicians who perpetuate the concept. As I explained in The Metabolic Treatment of Fibromyalgia, these doctors subscribe to the concept for one or more of three reasons. First, they lack the education to understand the concept within a historical context. Second, theyre so bereft of knowledge of logic and science that they cant see the bankruptcy of the concept. And third, insurance companies or law firms pay them well for using the concept incourt to block litigating patients from getting compensation for their injuries.
Apparently, many doctors in Scandinavian countries, Austria, and Germany also subscribe to the concept. They claim that repressed emotional conflicts cause fibromyalgia. These doctors and their American counterparts dont use the older Freudian terms “hysteria” and “hysterical conversion.” Instead, they use synonyms such as “somatization” and “somatoform disorder.” I suppose these modern terms allow the doctors to slink away from recognition that they subscribeto Freuds concept of hysteria and, by extension, to medieval demons. But the modern terms confer no legitimacy on the concept; it is and will always will be dark-age-derived, Freudian-drivel.
In my view, for doctors to use the concept is intellectually self-debasing, for the effects on patients are altogether bad. But alas, some doctors will continue to use the concept as a basis for diagnoses! When a doctor gives a patient of diagnosis of somatization or somatoform disorder, I believe she should protect herself by emulating your courage. She should regard his conduct as witch-doctoring, resolutely reject the diagnosis as unscientific, and, if he wont straighten up, fire him and find a doctor with a mind undemonized by medieval and Freudian concepts.
February 16, 2002
Question: I read this statement on another website: “In Dr. Northrup’s view, fibromyalgia has an emotional element such that negative feelings of despair and resentment, from job stress, family problems, or even childhood memories, get trapped in the muscles and constrict them.” Do you think this is true?
Dr. Lowe: I dont know which Dr. Northrup is credited with this conjecture, but I vehemently disagree with it. The conjecture is a revival of old Freudian psychoanalytical thinking. Freud once speculated how the symptoms we now diagnose as fibromyalgia develop. He wrote that patients had traumas and unresolved emotional conflicts that were too disturbing for the patients to deal with. So the traumas and conflicts sneakily hid away in the patients muscles and caused them to hurt. He also speculated that an occasional patient already had a painful muscle condition, and a “neurosis attached itself to this and made it seem of exaggerated importance.”[1,p.138]
This concept of Freuds, called “hysteria,” was debunked long ago by logicians, philosophers of science, and researchers. The concept was nothing more than a delusion of Freuds cocaine-ravaged brain.[2, pp.60&115] The notion of hysteria was rich fodder in the 20th century for novelists, most of whom couldnt compete with Freud in weaving tales. But as fruitful as the concept was for novelists, psychiatrists, and neurologists, it has no credible placeand never didin science or medical practice.
The concept of hysteria is unfortunately perpetuated today in some doctors minds. One reason is that the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association still implies the concept has credibility. Apparently, the Manual does this to appease the few remaining psychoanalytic thinkers within their ranks. Tragically, as Ive explained elsewhere,[2,p.51] some fibromyalgia researchers have now fallen back on the concept for explaining fibromyalgia. Blaming fibromyalgia on this refuted “cause” serves as a psychological refuge that protects the researchers from the harsh reality that theyve failed to learn the biological cause of the disorder. With all due respects to Dr. Northrup, the speculation is utter nonsense and has no scientific credibility whatever.
 Breuer, J. and Freud, S.: Studies on Hysteria. Translated by J. Strachey. New York, HarperCollins Publishers, (no
year of translated compilation given).
 Lowe, J.: The Metabolic Treatment of Fibromyalgia. Boulder, McDowell Publishing Company, 2000.
 Eysenck, H.: Decline and Fall of the Freudian Empire. New York, Penguin Books, 1985.
 Walker, III, S.: A Dose of Sanity. New York, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1996.