Fat? Fussy? Got a crush on Tower Bridge? Can’t spell? Too posh to eat white bread like normal people do? Don’t worry, there’s bound to be a medical condition you can put it down to.
Nobody has good old-fashioned flaws any more; instead, they have a diagnosis that they apply to problems like a plaster — but it’s better because it sounds important. Lazy? It must be chronic fatigue. Clean-freak? That’ll be OCD. Promiscuous? Try sex addiction.
My friends proudly claim to be suffering from all sorts of illnesses despite having no official diagnosis or any idea what they actually mean. “I’m so bipolar today,” they chuckle. Or, “That’ll be my insomnia,” if they stay up past midnight. There’s not one of them who doesn’t boast a gluten intolerance or ADD.
Did celebrities do this to us? Have we seen so many of them claim to be suffering from this, that and the other that we now self-diagnose from the pages of Heat magazine?
When the DSM 5 — the American Psychiatric Association’s latest manual of mental disorders — was released in May 2013 it included a raft of new, dubious medical conditions. Among them were gambling disorder, tobacco use disorder and paraphilia (a sexual perversion which includes fancying bridges and other inanimate objects).
Only after serious debate were grief, caffeine disorder and internet gaming disorder not included, but marked down for further study. No wonder the British Psychological Society worries that the DSM guide leaves people “negatively affected by the continued and continuous medicalisation of their natural and normal responses to their experiences… which do not reflect illnesses so much as normal individual variation”.
Now even being fat could be reclassified as a disability, after Karsten Kaltoft was sacked from his child-minding job in Denmark for allegedly being too rotund, at 25 stone, to tie a child’s shoelaces. Kaltoft is suing his employers for discrimination. If he wins his case, at the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg, EU-wide employers will have to give the obese special treatment, such as reinforced office chairs.