Index to “Fad” Diagnoses


Stephen Barrett, M.D.
March 28, 2019

The American Heritage Dictionary defines “fad” as “a fashion that is taken up with great enthusiasm for a brief period of time; a craze.” At least 25 diagnostic labels classifiable as fads have been in vogue during the past fifty years. Some refer to actual disease (which the patients do not have), whereas others are not recognized by the scientific community. Some unscientific practitioners apply one or more of these diagnoses to almost every patient they see. In many cases, they use nonstandard laboratory tests to “diagnose” them and recommend “dietary supplements” or “detoxification” to treat them.
In a few cases, the “diagnoses” have been concocted by marketers of dietary supplements or devices.

Not Scientifically Defined or Recognized

These alleged conditions differ greatly from those of medically recognized diseases such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and coronary heart disease, each of which is associated with a clear-cut history, physical findings, and laboratory tests. With these, however, the range of symptoms is virtually endless and typically does not correlate with physical findings or science-based laboratory tests.