The Huffington Post
By Dr. Peter Breggin
June 21, 2010
“I have a biochemical imbalance.”
“My kid is ADD.”
“I suffer from Clinical Depression.”
“I have Panic Disorder.”
Is there anything wrong with diagnosing ourselves or even accepting the mental health diagnoses of psychiatrists, family doctors, psychotherapists and other health professionals?
Psychiatric diagnoses are seductive. They seem to give us important information about ourselves and our emotional ills. They provide a key to what psychiatric drug we may need. It seems rational and scientific. In reality, psychiatric diagnosing is a kind of spiritual profiling that can destroy lives and frequently does.
First, there’s the obvious cookie cutter problem. People can’t be easily fit into the prefabricated labels contained in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders from whence all official diagnoses emanate. Diagnoses frequently change, often in an effort to justify this or that drug. It’s not realistic, enlightening or empowering to reduce yourself or your child to one of these diagnoses. Psychiatric diagnoses are simplistic.
Consider this: Psychiatric diagnoses are always negative. There are no such diagnoses as “Exceptionally Able to Face Stress” or “Remarkably Resilient” or “Courageously Independent in the Face of Abuse.” That’s how I like to think about the people that I try to help–as heroes or potential heroes in their own life stories. I never want them to sum up, categorize or symbolize their lives in such a demeaning fashion as a psychiatric diagnosis.
But that’s only the beginning of the problem. These diagnoses imply that you or your children have a disease, especially an underlying biochemical imbalance. This can be discouraging and disempowering. Having a psychiatric diagnosis tends to make us feel helpless to transform our lives or the lives of our children for the better. It makes us feel less responsible for our own psychological and spiritual recovery and for that of our young and dependent children.
Medical diagnoses are real. When you learn you have pneumonia, diabetes or even cancer, you quickly discover that there are potential remedies. There are scientific tests and studies to diagnose the disease and to evaluate its treatment. Medical diagnoses don’t demean your mind and your soul, they describe your bodily impairments.
Psychiatric diagnoses are not genuinely medical; they are not based on biological defects or disorders. There are no objective tests. They are not about the body; they are about the mind and spirit. The medical aura that surrounds psychiatric diagnoses give them a false validity. Psychiatric diagnoses are not rooted in science but in opinion.
Psychiatric diagnoses take power and authority over your life, and the lives of your children, out of your hands. They place that power and authority in the hands of health professionals. Often it takes but a few minutes in an office to transform you or your child from a complex human being into a product on the psychiatric assembly line–and endless assembly line that can lead to a ruinous lifetime.
Perhaps worst of all, these diagnoses almost inevitably lead to the prescription of psychiatric medication to you or your child. Psychiatric drugs are toxins to the brain; they work by disabling the brain. None of them cure biochemical imbalances and all of them, every single one of them, cause severe biochemical imbalances in the brain. The adverse effects of these drugs on the brain and mind are stunning. In my recent scientific books and articles, including Medication Madness, I have demonstrated they cause medication spellbinding. Spellbound by psychoactive drugs we cannot adequately judge the impairments they create in our brain and too often we mistakenly feel “improved” when in fact our feelings have been dulled or artificially jacked up, and our judgment about ourselves and our lives have been impaired.