Episode One of Afflicted – A New Netflix Series on Chronic Illness

This article contains a summary of the first episode of Afflicted

A new series on Netflix called Afflicted explores chronic illness. It follows seven people as they talk about their diagnoses and try to manage their symptoms. The first episode focuses on three people: Carmen, Jamison, and Bekah.

The First Episode

At the start of the episode, the program introduces Carmen, who finds it difficult to be around electromagnetic radiation sources – including mobile phones, smart watches, power lines, Wi-Fi, and fluorescent lights, “it’s the inability to function in the modern world” her husband says. “We used to have a wireless mouse,” Carman tells the viewers, “and I used to get pain in my hand.”

Jamison, a young man with myalgic encephalomyelitis (also known as chronic fatigue syndrome) is also shown talking about his symptoms. He says that movement causes him pain, and he experiences seizure-like tremors when his senses are over stimulated. The third person to share their illness in the episode, Bekah, has chronic mould sensitivity and lives in a stripped van with her partner, travelling through the desert to avoid mould (common in buildings) and going to different hospitals for treatments.

Afflicted’s Reception

The reaction to Afflicted has been contentious; an article at the Huffington Post praises the “very necessary series”, but Afflicted has also been criticised by many members of the rare chronic illness community. An article on The Mighty calls it “harmful”, and criticises the show’s “game […] of guessing whether these people’s illnesses are real”, an absence of scientific information about the conditions, and an emphasis on the doubts of family and friends, amongst other features.

What People Who Took Part Say

Several of the subjects of the documentary are now speaking about their experiences with the show. Shortly after the show was released, Jamison tweeted that he felt “disappointed and mislead.” An article, written by some of the people filmed, and published on Medium, outlines their criticisms of Afflicted. It also contains links to individual stories for Jamison, Jesse and Nick (with Bekah), Jake, Jill, and Janine. Pilar’s story is said to be coming soon.

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