Mental illness: error & profit

Formerly, when religion was strong and science weak, men mistook magic for medicine; now, when science is strong and religion weak, men mistake medicine for magic — Thomas Szasz

History is full of bizarre events filled with wild beliefs and strange practices. Science hasn’t remained immune when it comes to getting influenced by the socio-cultural views of the time. But being wrong is a part of science, right?!

Let’s dig into some examples narrowing down to the lane of the medical field. One of the commonly known ones is classifying homosexuality as a mental illness. Then, people were pathologized because they failed to comply with the authority. Let’s not forget that political disobedience would have been enough to send someone to an asylum. Women had been diagnosed as hysterical for having sexual urges.

Lobotomy, a wise method invented by professionals to treat schizophrenia, depression, and backaches. Sadly, this procedure created memory loss, more mood problems and once even lead to death due to the brain hemorrhage.

Now I guess I’ll have to tell ‘em
That I got no cerebellum
— The Ramones, “Teenage Lobotomy”

Dysaesthesia aethiopica, an example of scientific racism that explained the laziness among slaves. This is how it’s founder explains it- “much more prevalent among free negroes living in clusters by themselves, than among slaves on our plantations, and attacks only such slaves as live like free negroes in regard to diet, drinks, exercise, etc.” — indeed, according to Samuel A. Cartwright, “nearly all [free negroes] are more or less afflicted with it, that have not got some white person to direct and to take care of them.”

Let’s listen to his cure: The best means to stimulate the skin is, first, to have the patient well washed with warm water and soap; then, to anoint it all over in oil, and to slap the oil in with a broad leather strap; then to put the patient to some hard kind of work in the sunshine.

Alas, he didn’t think that sickness might exist in the way that the structure of society than in the head of poor slaves.

Fortunately, most of these ridiculous practices have been recognized as pseudoscience. This happened not necessarily due to any scientific evidence. Biology played little to no role whatsoever. Like in the case of homosexuality, it was declassified in 1973 due to the pressure from activists.

Still, we are becoming ‘sicker’ and there are few and few people left who aren’t having any disorder. Those thoughts and feelings that were considered normal previously are deserving a diagnosis now. Normal behavior is being diagnosed as a mental disorder.

DSM, the bible of psychiatry has listed over 300 disorders and some of these can be very misleading. Oppositional defiant disorder, as it is the one who argues with the authoritative figures and denies or refuses to comply. Bingeing, eating a large quantity of food in a short time is also considered an illness now. Disruptive mood dysregulation, a disorder that turns temper tantrums into mental illness. The periods of sadness, or worry, grief, drinking too much caffeine or having caffeine withdrawal are pathologized today. These normal trials of life have been accepted as illnesses and are being propagated by ‘experts’.

The writing is on the wall. ‘Normal’ badly needs saving; sick people desperately require treatment. But DSM-5 seems to be moving in just the wrong direction, adding new diagnoses that would turn everyday anxiety, eccentricity, forgetting, and bad eating habits into mental disorders. Meanwhile, the truly ill would be even more ignored as psychiatry expanded its boundaries to include many who are better considered normal- Allen
Frances

When it comes to diagnosing mental illnesses, there are no medical tests, no scans, no bloodwork, no physiological tissue damage that can diagnose anybody with a mental disorder. Summing up, there is no laboratory measure. So, DSM plays a huge role as the most commonly used manual by clinicians to diagnose any illness. Recently there have been many protests against psychiatry and against its bible. Many of the diagnoses included can label normal people and encourage inappropriate medication use. This brings a rise in the prescription of stimulants like Adderall and Ritalin.

On a per capita basis, inflation-adjusted retail prescription drug spending in the U.S. increased from $90 in 1960 to $1,025 in 2017.

Millions of Americans are being labeled as mentally ill. Prescriptions for antidepressants have tripled in America in the last decade while prescriptions for scientific drugs used to treat anxiety, bi-polar, ADHD, and a myriad of other psychiatric illnesses in infants, children, and adults are increasing exponentially across America. (Blummer and Marcus, 2009). To combat these diseases, daily doses of dangerous and addictive psychiatric drugs are being prescribed. Follow up study on people who take stimulants show the shrinkage in their brain, addiction to the tranquilizers and shortening of the lifespan in case of sedatives. People who have prescribed the sedatives for the life-long period are predicted to have their life cut short up to 20 years.

‘ The scientific literature shows that many patients treated for a milder problem will worsen in response to a drug- say have a manic episode after taking an antidepressant — and that can lead to a new and more severe diagnosis like bipolar disorder.’ Robert Whitaker

Labeling people or stigmatizing the human experience as mentally ill can’t bring some hope. Having problems in life is normal but one shouldn’t label it or try to earn from it. But the reports are indicating the opposite. The pharmaceutical industry is profiting from mental healthcare and even distorting psychiatry practice. One of the pitfalls of science that shows the desperate need to fill in.

It has nothing to do with biology. It has to do with power and control and what we think is appropriate or not appropriate behavior- Toby Watson