First Advisor

Dr. Kateri Ahrendt

Thesis Committee Member(s)

Dr. Howe and Dr. Kleier

Reader

Dr. Ashley Fricks-Gleason

College

Regis College

Degree Name

BS

Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Number of Pages

63 pages

Abstract

Due to the frequency of misdiagnosis of autoimmune diseases and their disproportionate incidence in women, my thesis explores historical misconceptions about autoimmune conditions which could have lingered in society to impede their diagnoses today. Antiphospholipid Antibody Syndrome (APS) and Anti-NMDA Receptor Encephalitis (ANRE) are the conditions I focused on, as both diseases can cause complex neurologic symptoms such as hallucinations and memory loss, which in combination with the fact that they are disproportionately suffered by women, have caused physicians in the past to misdiagnose patients as either hysteric or demonically possessed. I explore antiphospholipid antibody syndrome and anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis’s etiologic transitions from psychogenic to their correct physiologic explanations. I then apply this research to another, more poorly understood condition, fibromyalgia, a disorder that is currently classified as “psychogenic,” yet is hypothesized to be autoimmune. It still isn’t well understood, partly due to the fact that patients still face the stigma of hysteria when seeking a diagnosis. The purpose of this thesis is to combine biological and historical perspectives of medicine to explore the dangerous implications of labeling diseases as psychogenic, as this term often is merely a resurrection of the gender-biased concept of hysteria that impedes the diagnosis process on a daily basis. The dismissal of these conditions’ true etiology illuminates the resurgence of hysteria as an acceptable medical diagnosis, revealing the urgency to emphasize the molecular forces underlying previously misunderstood diseases of anti-phospholipid antibody syndrome and anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis.

Date of Award

Spring 2019

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