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My ten-cents on the DSM-5 debate debacle, part 1

I happened to leave the following comment under the Miriam-Webster definition for normalize recently.

While psychiatrist Allen Frances is critical the DSM revising process for medicalizing normal, I’m more critical of the same process for normalizing medicalization.

I stand by those words.

Allen Frances is to be praised for the position he has taken toward the DSM-5, no three ways about it.

His position towards the great bug-a-boo of psychiatry, anti-psychiatry, is quite another matter. I imagine all shrinks should have an office trashcan with the label “anti-psychiatry” taped to it. Anti-psychiatry has been totally discredited in the eyes of mainstream psychiatry. This is something of a joke as there is no co-ordinated anti-psychiatry movement to speak of anywhere that I know of. There is this person and that, and there are a few people here and there. Anti-psychiatry has become the whopping lie of mainstream psychiatry. Anti-psychiatry is one of the ploys mainstream psychiatry would use to reinforce its claim to scientific legitimacy, to maintain its theoretical hegemony, to silence its critics, and to stifle dissent among the rank and file. Anti-psychiatry has become psychiatry’s strawman and scapegoat. The other scapegoat being its clientelle. The message given is something along the lines of, ‘Be a good little compliant poster-board mental health consumer or the anti-psychiatrist will get you if you don’t watch out’.

This brings me to Jon Ronson, the author of The Psychopath Test and The Men Who Stare at Goats. He was featured in a CBC News analysis recently, Are we over-diagnosing autism? The psychiatric debate.

Dr. Frances told Ronson that he and his associates had created three false “epidemics” — childhood bi-polar disorder, autism and ADHD.

I’d say there are at least 4 false epidemics at work here, to be more precise, and throw in depression. Let me mention a few of the obvious reasons for doing so. 11 % of the people in the USA, the world’s leader in “mental illness” labeling today, are on anti-depressant drugs. The World Health Organization predicts that depression will be the leading cause of disability in the world by the year 2020. Depression is often seen as the underlying basis for other “mental disorder” labels, from the minor “mental disorder” leagues to the majors.

I have little desire to read Jon Ronson’s book, and the following comment should suffice to help explain my reasoning.

“I looked at all three and out of the three, the only one I felt comfortable about [excluding] was childhood bi-polar disorder. That seemed quite open and shut,” Ronson said. “Aspergers is a much more complicated thing.”

He likes those “mental illness” labels, doesn’t he?

I can picture members of the American Psychiatric Association clapping Mr. Ronson on his back, and inviting him onto their revision committee. From the look of recent revision efforts it would seem that most of the APA are in relative agreement with him about a number of matters. This man is not exactly a critic of psychiatry, quite the reverse. For an author, he’s been bought and sold. If the drug companies don’t have enough puppets working for them these days, I’m sure they would have no objections to welcoming another.

Although I can picture it, I really don’t see it happening any time soon. What if Mr. Ronson should dig just a little bit deeper? What if he should uncover some of the skeletons in psychiatry’s closet? What if he should reach the unbearable truth? What then? Nope, biological psychiatry has known enough turn coats and whistle blowers in its day. Freedom of speech is not, and never will be, the industry’s forte’. Freedom of speech will, in some instances, get you a psychiatric label. It could even get you thrown into the looney bin.