by Susan Rosenthal
(Updated at: Mental Illness or Social Sickness?)
When people are sick, they want to know what’s wrong and what can be done. They want a diagnosis. A correct diagnosis reveals what is wrong, what is the preferred treatment, and what is the likely outcome. For example, a diagnosis of pneumonia indicates a serious lung infection that can usually be cured with antibiotics.
The extension of medical diagnosis to mental illness is a political sham and a lucrative fraud. Mental illness, like physical illness, is a major source of suffering. However, a psychiatric "diagnosis" does not reveal what is wrong, what is the preferred treatment, and what is the likely outcome. All it tells us is that the patient’s symptoms match a checklist contained in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Psychiatric Disorders (DSM). As a result, different mental-health professionals who examine the same patient will offer different "diagnoses." Furthermore, psychiatric diagnoses move in and out of favor depending on the marketing strategies of the pharmaceutical industry.
Most of the "experts" who construct the DSM have financial ties to drug companies. The FDA will approve a drug to treat a mental condition only if that condition is listed in the DSM, so every new listing is worth millions in potential drug sales. Not surprisingly, each new edition of the DSM contains more "diagnoses" than the previous one.
Once the DSM lists a new mental disorder, drugs developed to "treat" that disorder are heavily marketed for everyone who might fit the symptom checklist. As a result, the numbers of people being diagnosed with any particular mental illness rise rapidly after a drug is approved to treat that illness. Children are fair game. At least six million American children have been diagnosed with serious mental disorders, triple the number in the early 1990's. The rate of boys aged 7 to 12 being diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder more than doubled between 1995 and 2000 and continues to rise. To ensure compliance with this fraudulent system, access to insurance benefits, medical care, and social services becomes dependent on "having a diagnosis."
Most of the symptoms listed in the DSM describe the human response to oppression and deprivation (anxiety, agitation, aggression, depression) and the many ways that people try to manage unbearable pain (obsessions, compulsions, rage, addictions). Instead of demanding improved social conditions to reduce human suffering, psychiatrists and drug companies extract the individual from society, split the brain from the body, sever the mind from the brain, and drug the brain.
One of my patients pushed me to label her with Bipolar Disorder so that she could "understand what was happening" to her. She would benefit more from a diagnosis of childhood trauma. This diagnosis tells me what is wrong (she was severely mistreated during her developmental years), what is the preferred treatment (material and emotional support to heal her wounds), and what is the likely outcome (feeling better and functioning better).
The diagnosis for a sick society? Capitalism generates wholesale misery that a social revolution could eliminate by putting human needs first. I don’t expect to see that diagnosis in the DSM anytime soon.
For more on this subject see POWER and Powerlessness, Chapter 12: "Suffer the Children" and Chapter 8: "Profit From Pain." Available at www.powerandpowerlessness.com