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Contested Illnesses

  • By: Joy L. Hart
  • In: Encyclopedia of Health Communication
  • Edited by: Teresa L. Thompson
  • Subject:Public Health Education & Health Promotion, Health Psychology, Health Communication

The term contested illnesses conveys perceptions of this set of maladies. Such illnesses are ones that are controversial. In short, their nature and cause (or causes) are considered contentious and thus are debated by scientists, practitioners, and/or members of the general public. In other words, the existence of such illnesses is questioned by medical personnel and/or laypeople.

There are several examples of such illnesses. Among the most common are chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), multiple chemical sensitivities syndrome (MCS), Gulf War syndrome (GWS), fibromyalgia, and Morgellons disease. Other contested illnesses include environmental causes of asthma, especially in children, and breast cancer.

Contested illnesses have several commonalities. They lack identified biological causes and confirmatory diagnostic tests. They also tend to involve a variety of symptoms. Furthermore, beyond disagreement surrounding ...

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