Morgellons Isn’t Just “Controversial” — It’s Not A Real Thing

Over the past day or so, since Joni Mitchell went to the hospital the other night, there have been several articles with headlines along the lines of “Inside Morgellons: Joni Mitchell’s Mystery Illness” and such.

One would think, upon a perusal of these headlines alone, that Morgellons was the reason Joni Mitchell was sent to the hospital. It is not. Why? Because Morgellons is not real. No one has ever been diagnosed with it by a medical professional. It is a thing people diagnose themselves with after reading stupid things on the internet.

Morgellons was first invented in 2001 by a mom (not a doctor) named Mary Leitao, whose son had a sore on his chin. The sore scabbed over and picked up environmental fibers — which, if you’ve ever had a scab, you know can happen. She took her son to several doctors, all of whom concluded that she had Munchausen by Proxy and that there was nothing wrong with her kid.

Not to be deterred, she continued her “research’ and found a description in one of Sir Thomas Browne’s letters of an illness from the 1700s called Morgellons, which sounded somewhat like whatever her son had. He described it as “that endemial distemper of children in Languedoc, called the morgellons, wherein they critically break out with harsh hairs on their backs.” There is, of course, no actual evidence linking Leitao’s invention to whatever Browne was describing.

Let me just say–there is a reason why doctors and scientists get to say when things are diseases and random “moms” do not. You can’t just make up your own disease! That is absurd.

She put her findings up on the Internet, and soon enough, other people decided they had this “mystery disease” as well. They claim that Morgellons causes lesions with “mysterious alien fibers” growing out of them, as well as “brain fog” and exhaustion. Some say there are bugs and parasites in their skin as well. Often, they end up digging into their skin and thinking they’ve found these parasites, which are actually nerve endings.

Allow me to state here that it is a poor idea to diagnose yourself using the Internet. I know, because I’ve been there. On several occasions, WebMD has convinced me I have lupus, which I definitely do not.

The number of so-called Morgellons sufferers–or as they call themselves, “Morgies”– grew and grew. They posted pictures of their fibers on the internet. Some said the fibers had numbers embossed on them. Many speculated that their mysterious new disease was caused by chemtrails, which apparently contain things called “airborne nanorobots” that burrow into the skin and cause the fibers to grow. Or something. These sites are really hard to read, as they are pretty damned bonkers.

How bonkers? This bonkers.

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This is a real thing that they think makes sense! Also, for what it’s worth, Abe Lincoln suffered from clinical depression for most of his life, so yes, “they” would have told Abe that he was mentally ill. There’s nothing wrong with being mentally ill. It’s not a character flaw, it’s an illness.

Now, when people who claim to have Morgellons go to doctors or dermatologists, they are told that they suffer from other problems, but not “Morgellons.” The most common diagnosis is “Delusions of Parisitosis” or DOP — meaning that they erroneously believe that they are infested with bugs of some kind. Some people have legitimate skin conditions like eczema, which they just keep picking at. Some have various other problems which they just self-diagnose as Morgellons.

The number of people claiming to suffer from this “mystery disease” grew so large that they finally got the CDC to investigate it. They studied 100 people claiming to suffer from it, performed skin biopsies, interviews and this is what they concluded:

To our knowledge, this represents the most comprehensive, and the first population-based, study of persons who have symptoms consistent with the unexplained dermopathy referred to as Morgellons. We were not able to conclude based on this study whether this unexplained dermopathy represents a new condition, as has been proposed by those who use the term Morgellons, or wider recognition of an existing condition such as delusional infestation, with which it shares a number of clinical and epidemiologic features. We found little on biopsy that was treatable, suggesting that the diagnostic yield of skin biopsy, without other supporting clinical evidence, may be low. However, we did find among our study population co-existing conditions for which there are currently available therapies (drug use, somatization). These data should assist clinicians in tailoring their diagnostic and treatment approaches to patients who may be affected. In the absence of an established cause or treatment, patients with this unexplained dermopathy may benefit from receipt of standard therapies for co-existing medical conditions and/or those recommended for similar conditions such delusions infestation.

Also, a laboratory study on the fibers concluded that they were made up of cotton and other materials found in clothing.

Those who say they suffer from the condition believe that this is all part of a government conspiracy of some kind, probably having to do with chemtrails. Which, for the record, are not real either. Neither are airborne nanorobots that exist to give you weird mysterious diseases. None of these things are real!

It’s clear that those who claim to have Morgellons are suffering from something. I don’t know, perhaps if there were less of a stigma on mental illness, then it would be easier to get at the root of the problem without having to worry about offending people by telling them they are delusional. I think it’s more helpful to help them fix the problems they may actually have than to coddle them and let them go on doing dangerous things to themselves to avoid hurting their feelings.

The TIME article on the subject strives for “balance,” but in my opinion goes a little too far in that pursuit.

Morgellons is a syndrome where people feel like something is right under their skin, or trying to come out of it. People who have the disorder will describe pulling “fibers” and other tiny objects like “specks, granules, dots, worms, sand, eggs, fuzz balls and larvae” through their skin. This can leave lesions and scars on their body.

Morgellons is not very well understood and is controversial within the medical community. It’s clear people who say they have Moregellons are suffering from something, but many doctors think it’s a psychological rather than physical condition. Research trying to determine what the disorder is has been very inconclusive.

It’s not controversial within the medical community, OK? Doctors know that it’s not real. The CDC has done research and conclusively proven that it is not real. The only controversy is between people who have diagnosed themselves with this via the internet, and actual doctors who say it doesn’t exist. There are no doctors out there going around diagnosing people with having mystery fibers coming out of their skin, perhaps because of chemtrails.

Describing it this way is like describing a person who is suffering from paranoid delusions as “suffering from a condition in which others can read his mind,” or, as a friend of mine put it “describing body dysmorphia as ‘a mysterious condition in which your body is very horrible but no one else can see that.'”

I understand the inclination to want to be “balanced,” but I sincerely think that by giving any credence to Morgellons as a legitimate and merely “controversial” or “mysterious” disease is doing people a serious disservice.

Why? Because they treat this “disease” in really, really dangerous ways. They laser themselves. They drink Borax. They take colloidal silver. Do you know what happens to your skin when you take collodal silver? This is what happens.

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It’s dangerous. It is not good for you. That guy died!

I’m sorry, but I don’t believe in being balanced when talking about things that are clearly not true. This seems to be a trend as of late, and it’s a stupid and occasionally dangerous one. All ideas and theories are not equal. We don’t need to give equal time to things like creationism, or climate change denial, or lizard people or the Illuminati or chemtrails or people who think they have mysterious alien fibers growing out of their skin. Coddling people like this is absolutely ridiculous, and it needs to stop before someone gets hurt.