The Universe As I See It: Psychology vs. Normalcy

UPDATE 3/27/2012

Things keep getting crazier in Normal Land. Today, an article about “Almost Alcoholism” came out. The article outlines the new DSM Spectrum for Alcoholism. Now, you don’t have to be a full-blown alcoholic to be diagnosed. Nope. A few extra drinks a day and a case of mild depression can qualify you. I’m seeing many more “Almost Disorders” on the horizon. Almost Schizophrenia, Almost Narcissism, Almost Depression, Almost Bi-Polar. Wow! Just imagine the expanded horizons! Think of all the new drugs we’ll be prescribed! Now we can all be New World Zombies. Almost paranoid? Maybe you should be.

In college and grad school I was a psychology major. I was drawn to the whole idea of helping people work through their problems and connect with their inner selves. Needless to say, after years of filling my head with psychobabble, I became disenchanted. It started with the DSM, or the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Psychological Disorders. This is the psychiatrist’s and psychologist’s bible, for those of you who might be unaware. They use it to diagnose EVERYTHING. Every verdict that gets someone put into an institution or strung out on prescription medication comes from the DSM.

Without going into too much detail, the DSM is broken into categories and each category has its own lists of disorders. The disorders, in turn, have their own list of symptoms (usually around 8). Most of the symptoms are broad over-generalizations. In order to diagnose someone with a disorder, they have to meet 5 out of the 8 criteria. The problem is, you can literally diagnose anyone with almost any disorder. Meaning that everybody is screwed up (or so you’d be led to believe). Which, if you think about it, is really a masterstroke of marketing. That’s right, now we’re all crazy and in need of Holy Psychology’s Sacrament of pills in order to sooth our suffering.

Granted, there are people so detached from reality that they can’t function in society. Drugs help in that they make these people manageable. They don’t cure anything, they just stone the patients out enough so they can be led around as amicable as sheep by Big Pharma. Essentially, drugs mask the symptoms they don’t elucidate a cure. And therein lies the biggest problem. I’m not sure psychology has actually cured anybody of anything. But psychologists and psychiatrists sure do obsessively categorize every little deviation from their preconceived “norm” like they possess the wisdom of Solomon. And I do mean “every little deviation” even going so far as to ascribe perfectly natural process to mental disorders. Did you know PMS is considered a mental disorder? That’s right women. Psychology says you all go crazy once a month. Oh, they added Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) to the whole thing just in case anybody slipped through the cracks.

“The DSM-IV criteria for PMDD state that symptoms must be sufficiently serious to interfere with a woman’s work, social activities, and interpersonal relationships. Signs of psychosocial impairment include marital discord, parenting difficulties, poor work performance, and increased social isolation. Women who only experience severe physical symptoms of PMS without accompanying mood symptoms do not meet the criteria for PMDD, even though they also may experience psychosocial impairment.” Source

And in the field of Psychology’s newest attack on normalcy we have grief. What’s that you say? How is grief a mental disorder? Well it shares many of the same symptoms as depression. I know, I know, that’s odd. Grieving people shouldn’t be depressed. They should have no emotional connection to themselves whatsoever. As it stands in the DSM, grief (less than two months) is seen as normal. Anything over that is classified as “bereavement exclusion” and is fair game for medication. But that’s not enough over-classification for the eggheads in the think tanks. Grief itself needs to be classified as a disorder so medication can be prescribed within weeks instead of months. I don’t see how you can work through grief if you’re medicated to suppress those negative emotions. Neither does this guy:

“But critics fear that those experiencing completely expectable symptoms of grief would be labelled mentally “sick.” Dr. Allen Frances says the proposal would pathologize a normal human emotion and could bring on even wider prescribing of mood-altering pills.” Source

Oh, well that makes sense. Honestly, who wants to wait for months to start someone on their decent into social zombie-ism? Then again, who wants to wait for something like grief to come along to begin the process at all? Surely there are other abnormal human behaviors to label and manufacture pills for treatment. What about…shyness! That’s weird and abnormal, right? Have you ever gotten nervous getting up in front of a crowd? Gotten embarrassed at a party? No worries oddball, there’s a pill for that now.

I know it seems like a more natural process to work through these issues yourself (building character, resolve and courage along the way), but trust the shrinks, it’s not a natural process. As a matter of fact, it’s as unnatural, as say, grief or PMS and needs to be promptly medicated.

I’m wondering how you medicate people for shyness anyway? Give them speed?

Ask the moms from Toddlers and Tiaras and they’ll give you their homemade remedy for shyness: energy drink concoctions. I’m telling you honey boo boo chil’, ain’t nothin’ take away the jitters like Green Juice!
Horrifying right? How dare those moms give their children mood-altering potions to control their behavior? Only monsters would unnecessarily medicate children.

I’ve seen the effects of this first hand when I was working in the classroom. The crazy thing is that all these drugs don’t seem to be making anybody better. If anything, more and more people are “needing” them for the craziest things. Like restless leg syndrome. Or one of my favorites, the anti-depressants that jump start the anti-depressants the patient is already taking (after they quit working). It’s a wicked cycle. A very profitable, wicked cycle. And the saddest part is, many people are being convinced of the validity of all this insanity.

Meanwhile, Drugs have certainly become the easiest and most often utilized solution. All these pills really aren’t curing anything. You wouldn’t take an anti-depressant and be cured from depression like taking an antibiotic cures infections. In fact, two of the serious side effects of anti-depressants are depression and suicidal thoughts. How’s that for paradox? The best prescription drugs can offer is to allow some people to function within society. But even this limited benefit comes with a cost.

“Telling people they have got a medical problem that needs treatment means often people will feel both stigmatised by that diagnosis, and then reliant on the drugs they are given.” Source

This can’t be the answer to all our problems…can it?

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About Universal Shift

I am the Sonata Unusual. I coat myself with some obtuse angle too far below zero to become any warmer. I create motivation, activate schemas, moisten gardens with scents of natural honeydew. Construct this meaning, you sleepy flock. Silence your singing—despairing contortions out of tune. Shatter the brittle butterfly glass with your hideous wailing. I am born of my god’s imagination. When I die I shall meet him. For there are many things to discuss over tea…or scotch.

Posted on February 11, 2012, in Author, Philosophy, writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. dood, alcohol cures my shyness. SELF MEDICATION lol

  2. Nope – it sure can’t.

    As a Holistic Health Practitioner, I can testify, first-hand, that self-medication is definitely not the answer.

  3. Chris Deichman

    im sure sacking up isn’t FDA approved either. People who are good in their own skin don’t spend money on treatment.

    • That’s no way for a New World Zombie to think, Mr. Deichman. Nobody is good in their own skin. Everybody is Almost Something. That’s the beauty of Almost Diagnosing.

  4. Jason — ouch indeed, as the previous comment reads. Great thoughtful post. “Meditate before you medicate” is my stock response, at least for myself. Though that’s not always a helpful diagnosis either. Since we’re not often enough good in our own skin, maybe it’s time to skin-walk, shape-shift. Be good in something else’s skin for a while. Get out of ourselves (in a non-medicated way) and try the view from outside.

    I’ve answered your comment on my blog and I’m copying it here: I’m happy to talk. PM me at adruidway@yahoo.com. — ADW

  5. Another thing to take into consideration is the fact that Insurance companies will not pay for therapy for anyone if they do not have a diagnostic code. That means sometimes when people do not fit a category exactly and to a “tee” the therapist will give the closest diagnosis and sometimes inform the client that the diagnosis does not fit completely but is needed in order to receive services.

    If a person loses their loved one and becomes suicidally depressed and is in extreme need for therapy and perhaps hospitalization, sometimes insurance companies or state funded programs need “proof” that the person requires such extensive therapy and so require not one but a few diagnostic codes… Because codes are required and patient confidentiality means that of course, the insurance company does not get therapy notes of actual patient issues and problems. Is the diagnostic codes that are required by institutions in order to give much needed therapy and support to people with these real illnesses evil?

    No institution with a set of checks and balances or doctors who would not waste their time with individuals who did not require help do not base their actual therapy on “illusory” illnesses. I don’t know if that was your actual intent with the post but I felt compelled to write wharton came to my mind.

    • First of all, thank you for writing what came to your mind. Most of your comment speaks for itself and I feel adds to what I’m trying to say. I would like to point out:

      “Insurance companies will not pay for therapy for anyone if they do not have a diagnostic code. That means sometimes when people do not fit a category exactly and to a “tee” the therapist will give the closest diagnosis and sometimes inform the client that the diagnosis does not fit completely but is needed in order to receive services.”

      To me, this is a problem. If a person doesn’t fit a diagnosis then, according to what should be the laws of common sense, they must not suffer from that illness. Or if they do, they don’t suffer from it in an extremely debilitating way. But that’s not what happens. Instead, doctors make fake or partial diagnosis in order to get insurance companies to pay for it. That still isn’t right. And I don’t see how it benefits people at all. So, are you saying it’s really the insurance companies responsible for over-medicating society? Are doctors to be blameless for their part in the whole process?

      “Is the diagnostic codes that are required by institutions in order to give much needed therapy and support to people with these real illnesses evil?” To this I answer: If people were really in need of therapy and support for these illnesses, there’d be no need to ‘Almost Diagnose’ them with a variety of illnesses. Those problems become self evident.

      • my first thought is that insurance companies should not require the codes and rely on the doctors’ expertise instead.

        The situation is that people who desperately need help are more likely to get it if their doctors or therapists diagnose them which is the placement of “labels.” More often than not an individual is going to present with manifestation of symptoms that are unique to that individual. Human beings often do not fit into these cookie cutter diagnoses but these codes are associated with scientific research so seen as more valid, more objective.

        Doctors give cookie cutter diagnoses so insurances will fund greatly needed help for people in great need. Is this right or wrong? If someone is helped and the faulty system is foiled than how can that be wrong?

        Is America really over-medicated? The stigma placed on mental illnesses alone causes many to suffer for years without treatment. When these people finally get help and are put on medicine, sometimes they end the treatment too early once they feel the illness is gone or the American-Instant-Gratification tendency gets the better of sufferers and they end treatment after medicines do not work as quickly as they expected.

        I read a research paper from a professional journal that discovered that Americans undermedicate pain. We habitually as a society believe we need to “suck it up” when it comes to physical pain and mental anguish. Men particularly are socialized to not be “weak” and go to the doctor when their loved ones point out their personal worries that the men in their lives are suffering needlessly.

        So, the “almost diagnosis” is a natural result of the diagnostic model not fitting each sufferer of mental illnesses completely as if the model could fit all individuals who tend to be unique and express their symptoms in behaviors that might not be written in the manual under the suspected diagnosis.

        Who is at fault? An imperfect system that needs to be helpful towards those who need psychiatric / psychological therapy. As it is now mental hospitals release severely ill people too soon because insurances dictate how long the patient needs to be in the hospital to get well rather than the freakin’ DOCTORS!

  6. “Doctors give cookie cutter diagnoses so insurances will fund greatly needed help for people in great need. Is this right or wrong? If someone is helped and the faulty system is foiled than how can that be wrong?”

    I think here you answered your own question. If people are using the system, if they are exploiting the system, it makes them part of that system.

    “Is America really over-medicated?” My answer to that is yes. Please see the above post for my opinion as to why. This site also has some eye opening tidbits. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db42.htm 48% of Americans seems a pretty staggering number in my estimation. It seems to me that nobody really had problems until we were all told we had problems.

    “So, the “almost diagnosis” is a natural result of the diagnostic model not fitting each sufferer of mental illnesses completely as if the model could fit all individuals who tend to be unique and express their symptoms in behaviors that might not be written in the manual under the suspected diagnosis.”

    I still see this as a problem, not a solution. That leaves things way too open to interpretation. Almost like mixing and matching “almost diagnosis” and crafting specialized disorders unique to the individual. Normality is as fictional as the Easter Bunny. Meaning nobody falls totally into the “normal” category. This mentality falls too much into the “Let us create a disorder just for you” category.

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