Seeing Through The Facade

I was reacting, perhaps overreacting, to a paragraph from Tufts University associate professor Daniel Carlat’s New York Times article, Mind Over Meds, in my blog post yesterday.

Leon Eisenberg, an early pioneer in psychopharmacology at Harvard, once made the notable historical observation that “in the first half of the 20th century, American psychiatry was virtually ‘brainless.’ . . . In the second half of the 20th century, psychiatry became virtually ‘mindless.’ ” The brainless period was a reference to psychiatry’s early infatuation with psychoanalysis; the mindless period, to our current love affair with pills. J.J., I saw, had inadvertently highlighted a glaring deficiency in much of modern psychiatry. Ultimately, his question would change the way I thought about my field, and how I practiced.

Daniel Carlat gives a little bit of slack to the psychoanalytic approach to treatment, a very little bit of slack. This is to say that he can see the virtue of letting up on the drugging in some cases involving people with relatively minor psychiatric labels, it would seem, more than he might have done at an earlier time, but he’s pretty drug, drug, drug as a rule.

Well, before you can drug, drug, drug, you need a body to drug, and that leads to our next exploration, the pathologizing of irritating behaviors, as in the modified proverb, ‘children should be psychiatrically labeled, not heard’.

Here’s a snippet on a satire used as an introduction to another article, The trend toward pathologizing our children.

Many years ago, a satirical article titled “The Etiology and Treatment of Childhood” described the clinical symptoms of “childhood syndrome” as including a congenital onset, dwarfism, knowledge deficits and legume anorexia. The author noted that fewer than 20 percent of “children” had more than a fourth-grade education and that the condition was biologically based since it was usually present at birth. Many of the characteristic symptoms appeared to resolve with age. If nothing else, this “study” demonstrates how persuasive social science can appear, especially when it is augmented by statistics.

This is probably much truer now than it was then. Interesting, is it not, how non-fiction more and more comes to resemble fiction? The mental illness industry, through advertising, has its consumer base to create, expand, and manipulate.

1 in 4 people may pass through the psychiatrists’ revolving door every year, as the national mental sickness organizations like to claim, but most don’t make a habit of doing so year after year after year. It’s those that make a habit of doing so you’ve got to wonder about. They have managed to become a statistic of another sort.

2 Responses

  1. Carlat isn’t the firebrand radical that some people think he is. He’s pretty middle of the road.

    And he’s also like a lot of other people I’ve encountered in the mental health profession. He uses his patients to work through his own problems, i.e. his reaction to his mother’s suicide. That’s creepy and sick. And I have to ask where are the payments to the patients for services rendered?

    • The point has been made that a lot of these psychiatric and other mental health professionals get into the business for reasons similar to those that get peer support specialists into the field. Alright. I’d like to see more people leave the field, consumers and servicer providers alike. We are experiencing an epidemic of ‘mental illness’ now, in part, because they are not leaving the field. When the mental health profession shrinks, there goes a big drain on the economy, financially and emotionally speaking.

      Oh, well. I can puff my pipe, and I can dream.

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