In short, it’s because people forget that that’s what the word “disease” really means—it’s lack of ease in the body. In present-day parlance, heavily influenced by our diagnosis-focused healthcare culture, when we use the word disease, people generally think of either a severely ill person or the concept of meeting “diagnostic criteria” for a certain condition (which are developed based primarily on insurance operations, not human physiology). Either way, people don’t think of themselves in reference to the word disease, especially if they just have something they deem “minor”—skin stuff, a little digestive upset, being a little moody.
In truth, people in all of these categories are experiencing uneasiness about some aspect of their health—SOMEthing about their health isn’t occurring with ease (hence dis-ease). Oftentimes, even people with fairly pronounced health issues (mood disorders, pre-diabetes, cholesterol problems, ongoing physical pain) don’t use the word “disease” to describe what’s going on in their health.
And that’s completely fine. It might even be adaptive. I’m not implying that it would be of benefit for people to view themselves as ill—in fact, there’s a lot of evidence that it’s better for people to view their health from a strength-based perspective. I’m not championing that we start to view everyone as ill, or that we use catastrophic language to describe our health. That doesn’t help anyone.
I use the hyphen in the word dis-ease only to draw attention to the fact that, as a byproduct of a healthcare culture that emphasizes the (very false) premise that “health means you don’t have a diagnosis”, people put up with less-than-optimal wellness too often, for too long. People are overly willing to accept “that doesn’t sound like something I learned to diagnose in med school” as a good enough reason for putting up with not feeling the best that they could.
However a person experiences dis-ease in their body or mind, from minor to complex, the symptoms are often signifiers of some basic root causes. The human body is an incredibly complex chemistry lab, and imbalances in those chemicals can cause things to feel imbalanced to the person living in that chemistry lab. When the basic sources of those imbalances can be identified, they can can be brought back into balance.
This is what functional medicine seeks to do—identify those basic root causes of imbalance and stimulate, as much as possible, the body’s ability to heal and bring those functions back to normal. It’s about creating resilience, so that the person can experience ease where there was once uneasiness.