Electromagnetic Sensitivity
Posted: 25 January 2017 01:45 PM   [ Ignore ]
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Electromagnetic Sensitivity is one of those controversial topics for which there is no sound science or medical publications, that I’ve been able to locate, that agree it is “real,” regardless of the suffers claiming otherwise. Most articles say there is no evidence that normal items (Wifi, cell phones, televisions, monitors, etc.) contribute to untoward symptoms and most double-blind studies (according to a source I read), demonstrate the sufferer cannot distinguish between items that purportedly emit electromagnetic waves and those that do not. This has hit close to home with me because my mother is now convinced cell phones and other items make her sick and she lists off her symptoms which really could be anything (rapid heart rate, headache, integumentary symptoms, among others. I do not know how to respond. We’ve actually argued about this because she disregards all the publications out there that state there is no medical evidence to back up any such diagnosis of “electromagnetic sensitivity.” To make matters worse, she has visited a doctor (he does have an active M.D. and practices medicine as I looked him up); however, he is an ENT specialist, not a neurologist, or psychiatrist, so I question his legitimacy in entertaining this controversial condition that is not even recognized (apparently there is an instance in France of a woman successfully obtaining disability due to EMS, but we don’t know if she was granted it for somatic complaints vs. the government actually recognizing EMS itself, since somatic complaints can be justified medically). It’s frustrating to see online that people are equating the granting of disability benefits to validation of a “diagnosis,” but having worked in healthcare myself…I aware that somatic symptoms can be severe enough to warrant disability benefits—but that doesn’t equate to a validation of the diagnosis itself or having a bearing on science.  Furthermore, he says there is no cure, just take probiotics, get healthy, and avoid “electricity” basically (which, with the exception of the later, is basically just general medical/health advice). Also, this doctor apparently stated that his grandson is a sufferer of EMS. My view is EMS is just a conversion disorder that people with real symptoms mislabel in the absence of any other cause—but it’s actually causing a riff in my relationship with my mother and not sure what to do when I am leaning toward not believing she is looking objectively at this (and it does affect our relationship because she even backed out of a trip I planned to take her on due to this among countless other scenarios) and she gets angry if I use GPS in the car since she thinks I am “making her sick.” So it is not as if this is some issue I can just leave in the background and agree to disagree on. My aunt, her sister, tends to agree with her that this is real, not that just the symptoms are real, but it is indeed EMS. So I am clearly in the minority here and don’t know what to say to lead to a reasonable discussion that does not turn argumentative—any suggestions on a starting place?

[ Edited: 25 January 2017 02:46 PM by FinallyDecided ]
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Posted: 30 January 2017 06:19 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Unfortunately, there’s no perfect or reliably effective way to approach someone with a fixed false belief. Arguments and contrary evidence generally only strengthen their commitment to their belief, at least in the short term. The best I can suggest is to begin by focusing on your motivations, to see your mother as healthy and happy as she can be, and to keep that goal in the forefront of any discussion. Frame your objections to the EMS belief in terms of concern for her welfare. And you will have to be patient and pick your battles.  If avoiding things she fears are harming her doesn’t threaten her well-being directly, sometimes it may be better to let her act on her false belief if it reduces her anxiety. Still, being persistent in gently raising the subject and providing access to resources with true information, might have some impact in the long run. Good luck!

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Posted: 03 February 2017 02:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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mckenzievmd - 30 January 2017 06:19 PM

Unfortunately, there’s no perfect or reliably effective way to approach someone with a fixed false belief. Arguments and contrary evidence generally only strengthen their commitment to their belief, at least in the short term. The best I can suggest is to begin by focusing on your motivations, to see your mother as healthy and happy as she can be, and to keep that goal in the forefront of any discussion. Frame your objections to the EMS belief in terms of concern for her welfare. And you will have to be patient and pick your battles.  If avoiding things she fears are harming her doesn’t threaten her well-being directly, sometimes it may be better to let her act on her false belief if it reduces her anxiety. Still, being persistent in gently raising the subject and providing access to resources with true information, might have some impact in the long run. Good luck!

Thanks for the input. It sure is frustrating. I want to untangle the mess of beliefs, but of course that’s easier said than done. I will reiterate to her that I validate her experience and perception, but I am not locking into the belief of the cause because there is not evidence. And she will have to accept that.

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