Brand Dyslexia Declared ‘Epidemic’

Dec. 8, 2072
ATLANTA–The Center for Consumer Diseases today announced the official classification of Brand Dyslexia Disorder, or BDD, as an “epidemic.” The change in classification frees up federal funding for round-the-clock research and steps-up authorization for nation-wide epidemiological studies. “The acceleration in the spread of BDD is alarming and unprecedented,” notes CCD Head of Syndromal Illness Research Dr. Evelyn Ditch. “The re-classification is meant to mobilize the research community in hopes of containing and treating this debilitating disease.”

BDD is a progressive disorder affecting the ability of its victims to perceive and remember the correct relationship between brands and branded objects. People suffering from BDD often have difficulty picking out objects according to their brand preference. At later stages, victims consistently confuse branded objects with other, nearby branded objects. “At first it seemed almost amusing, and didn’t happen that often,” explains Robert Lilo, afflicted with BDD for the past 18 months. “Later on it would happen all the time. I’d be in the market, thinking I was grabbing Coke off the shelf only to get home and have my wife explain to me that I’d actually got Pepsi. Now it happens at home, too. I’ll think I’m putting TIDE in the machine, when I’m really putting in Liquid-Plumr.”

Little is known about the causes of BDD, but early research suggests the disorder is linked to excess stimulation of a region of the brain’s limbic area known as “Folgers Region” and associated with brand perception and processing. CCD’s Ditch explains: “In BDD, we see excess neural firing in the Folgers Region, almost to the point of seizure. In addition to neural hyper-activity, patients afflicted with BDD typically have much more neural development in the Region, leading some of us to suspect that there may be a genetic marker for predisposition to BDD.”

Though currently classed with other neurochemically rooted perceptual and learning disorders in the American Psychiatric Association’s DSM-IX, BDD’s recent infectious spread has experts concerned that the disorder is contagious. Statistical “regression analysis” of the timing and distribution of reported cases has suggested that BDD has more in common with the flu than with other psychiatric diseases.

Amid speculation that BDD is spread by a conventional infectious agent, at least one BDD researcher has suggested, instead, that the disorder may be caused by excessive viewing of brand advertising and branded media. “We might imagine, at some point, a sort of saturation of the brain’s ability to process brands,” notes Johns Hopkins Professor of Clinical Psychiatry Dr. Josef Blitz. “The brain becomes over-programmed. The brands are too deeply embedded, ossifying the Folgers Region, paralyzing the brain’s ability to respond to new brand stimulus. This theory would explain the epidemiology we see. In the same way that an individual brain reaches a saturation point, so too might a population. The more branded media we dump into the population, the more BDD will spread.”

Some public health officials have expressed misgivings about the CCD’s BDD re-classification. “I question whether this decision was made based on the health threat posed by BDD, or by the threat it poses to the advertising industry,” notes longtime CCD critic Dr. Lilly Labour. “BDD has gotten an awful quick response from the administration for a something that’s not life threatening. Is this the government spending health dollars to protect the health of real people, or to protect the health of American brands?”