The New Enquiry – October 18, 2013 By Sam Kriss A new dystopian novel in the classic mode takes the form of a dictionary of…
In my career as a psychologist, I have talked with hundreds of people previously diagnosed by other professionals with oppositional defiant disorder, attention deficit hyperactive disorder, anxiety disorder and other psychiatric illnesses, and I am struck by 1) how many of those diagnosed are essentially anti-authoritarians; and 2) how those professionals who have diagnosed them are not.
Anti-authoritarians question whether an authority is a legitimate one before taking that authority seriously. Evaluating the legitimacy of authorities includes assessing whether or not authorities actually know what they are talking about, are honest, and care about those people who are respecting their authority. And when anti-authoritarians assess an authority to be illegitimate, they challenge and resist that authority—sometimes aggressively and sometimes passive-aggressively, sometimes wisely and sometimes not.
New guidelines for mental illness turn shyness in children from a personality trait into a mental disorder that warrants drug treatment. Drug companies already target children, who fidget too much in class or have trouble concentrating on their homework, with stimulant drugs for treating attention deficit disorder. Now children who sit too quietly or are more withdrawn than their peers will also be targeted with medication for social anxiety disorder or depression.
Children who are shy or considered moody run the risk of being diagnosed with mental illnesses and given powerful drugs like Prozac, psychologists have warned.
Experts said mental health diagnoses are likely to increase from 2013 as new guidelines on the definition of mental illness are being drawn up in America and are likely to be replicated in Britain.
Psychologists in the UK fear school-age children could be diagnosed with mental illnesses like ‘social anxiety disorder’ if they are quieter among their peers, or depression if a child is temporarily sad or is battling bereavement.Meanwhile, youngsters who appear to lose their temper easily or answer back to adults could be classed as having ‘oppositional defiant disorder’.
Once diagnosed, psychologists say children are likely to be treated with powerful drugs like Prozac or Ritalin to curb their behaviour – without fully understanding the long-term impacts.
Do you have a shopping addiction disorder? Perhaps an addiction to food? Maybe one of your kids has Internet addiction disorder, or video-game attachment syndrome. Well, not quite yet, because these kinds of new mental diagnoses are only proposed, not final, for the new revision of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the bible of the American Psychiatric Association (APA).
And there is a terrible problem with this. The DSM was first created in the 1920s. Based on psychoanalytic theory, it enumerated fewer than 100 mental problems that a psychiatrist could diagnose, all of them attributable to environmental conditions, generally the role of parenting. We know now that this theoretical stance was limited and, in many cases, wrong. In 1980, the second revision of the DSM took place. Freud was discarded, and the revised bible now included several hundred disorders, all delineated by a list of observable symptoms and a framework for limiting and differentiating diagnoses.
Three versions later, the current DSM lists more than 1,000 disorders. No theories are espoused for their origins, though implicit in it is that there is a mix of genetic and environmental causes that shape neurological development. During this period of about three decades, the incidence of attention disorders in the general population has increased from 2 percent to 10 percent. In the 1980s, people diagnosed with bipolar disorder represented less than 1 percent of the population; now the number has increased to 5 percent. New diagnoses, like oppositional defiant disorder and conduct disorder, now cover as many as 5 percent of children.
Autism, which afflicted a tiny percentage of the population in the 1990s, now accounts for 1 out of every 100 children. What is wrong with this picture? Do we have an epidemic on our hands? Something in the water we drink, or the air we breathe?