Complementary and alternative medicine Medicine Pseudoscience Quackery Skepticism/critical thinking

Rosie O’Donnell: Hanging skepticism upside down

Well, not exactly “no comment.” You know that Orac, being the annoyingly obnoxious skeptic that he is, has to put at least two cents in.

This one’s just plain odd. I knew Rosie O’Donnell’s not exactly the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree, and she also borders on being a creduloid, at least with respect to almost buying the myth that mercury in vaccines causes autism (although she does get props for slapping down David Kirby) and waxing antivax about Gardasil, the new vaccine against human papilloma virus. But last week, she revealed that she has been using “inversion therapy” for years to battle depression.

What is “inversion therapy”? It’s hanging upside down for 15-30 minutes a day. Is there any evidence that this does anything for depression? In a word, no. Nor is there any evidence that it “really releases the serotonin,” as Rosie claims.

Now, given Rosie’s level of intellect, one might argue that anything that produces more blood flow to her brain, even for less than a half hour a day, would be a good thing (although in reality it probably does nothing more than slightly increase intracerebral pressure by impeding venous return without producing any increase in blood flow to the brain; our vascular system is designed to provide blood flow to the brain while the head is above the level of the heart, after all). Unfortunately, the fact that she’s using her celebrity to push a dubious and unproven “treatment” for depression is just as bad as Oprah Winfrey credulously lapping up what psychics have been laying down and shamelessly plugging what looks to be 2007’s big entry in the sweepstakes for destroying what little is left of skeptical thought in this country, The Secret. It’s depressing. Oprah, at least, should know better. At least Rosie, unlike many who use conventional therapy and alternative therapy, doesn’t attribute her recovery only to the alternative therapy:

Anyone concerned about the stigma of taking medication for depression should know that “it saved my life,” she said.

When she began taking antidepressants, O’Donnell, 44, said she began yoga and “inversion therapy,” where she hangs upside down by a swing for 15 to 30 minutes a day.

I’ll at least give her that much credit.

One thing that lifts my depression at the state of critical thinking in this country is to look at Rosie, actually demonstrating her “inversion therapy”:


By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

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