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  • Paula Thompson
    Paula Thompson

    The Delusions of Western Medicine

    As modern society has grown to become increasingly more dependent on the power of pharmaceuticals, our view of health and wellbeing has been significantly diminished. In part, as treatments become increasingly medicalized, the belief that all maladies can be solved by taking a pill has become so pervasive – perpetuated through both pop culture and Western Medicine – that it’s easy to forget the value of other forms of care. Western Medicine is firmly entrenched in three fundamental ideologies when it comes to chronic mental and physical pathology: A disease-based perspective, symptom-focused treatment, and mind/body separation. The overemphasis on these approaches has overlooked the unique healing capabilities that are central to other forms of healing, thus creating a great many delusions about just how effective these methods actually are when it comes to managing long-term physical and mental wellness.

    The near-ubiquitous approach of Western Medicine’s disease-based perspective is founded in the simple concept of cause and effect; if one can identify the cause of a pathological condition, then systemic change can occur. But this rather simplistic view is often deeply inadequate. It fails to take into account the natural course of illnesses that progress in cycles and levels of complexity, such as depression, autoimmune disorder, and chronic pain. In these cases, the patient may experience different layers of symptoms over time, complicating the notion of simply determining the sole cause of a single ailment. this model of thinking doesn’t acknowledge many mental or physical issues as having a holistic origin, where multiple factors could be at the root. Such an issue is the connection between diet, lifestyle, and Western Medicine's common use of antibiotics – which can have disastrous consequences for the microbiome.

    Western Medicine also perpetuates another highly destructive myth: The idea that every ilment can be completely resolved through drugs or surgery. By merely focusing on the attendant symptoms and attempting to eradicate them, too often the true underlying causes of any condition go unaddressed. And in many cases, drug-based treatments can provide a band-aid that keeps the person from dealing with the problem’s true source. After all, shouldn’t a potential solution to an issue include more than just swatting away symptoms?

    Another major bone of contention with Western Medicine is its emphasis on the dichotomy between mind and body – something that has been thoroughly debunked by many fields of research, including integrative and alternative medicines. For example, studies have consistently shown that mental and emotional health are strongly connected and that psycho-neuroimmunology links thoughts and feelings directly to immunity. This overlap and integrated connection between mind and body extends further when it comes to the understanding and management of many chronic conditions. Addressing the root causes of mental and physical issues overwhelms Western Medicine’s tactics of solely prescribing pills or undergoing an invasive surgery.

    Taken together, these delusions of Western Medicine illustrate why many of us have accepted the superficial benefits of only addressing symptoms while discounting the importance of pursuing an integrated approach – one that considers the individual’s lived experience, lifestyle and diet, as well as their mental and emotional state – when it comes to healing. As redundant as it may sound, an ideal approach to managing any chronic illness would need to encompass more than just drug treatments, whether they be preventative or curative, and understand that the patient’s psychological, emotional and physical dimensions are intricately intertwined.

    The danger of subscribing only to Western Medicine’s ideological approach to care lies in the inadequacy of the system’s fundamental concepts. Consequently, this portends that the real health of individuals and society at large will be forever illusory. Thus, the pursuit of a more complete strategy to understand and treat chronic physical and mental issues is not only desirable, but also essential. It's time to discard the delusion of Western Medicine, and acknowledge the undeniable benefit of thoughtful integration of other modalities and disciplines to achieve lasting wellness.

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