British psychologists are to say that current psychiatric diagnoses such as bipolar disorder are useless.
When Mark Twain’s hero Huckleberry Finn was forced to study spelling for an hour every day, he said, “I couldn’t stand it much longer. It was deadly dull, and I was fidgety.” His teacher, Miss Watson, threatened him with eternal damnation if he didn’t pay attention. Huck admits it didn’t seem like such a bad alternative. “But I didn’t mean no harm. All I wanted was to go somewheres; all I wanted was a change, I warn’t particular.”
If that had happened today, Huck would have been diagnosed as ADHD, put on Adderall, and forced to attend school, while the book about his adventures would never have been written.
The American Psychiatric Association invented the term “ADHD” in 1980 to give kids with hyperactivity, impulsivity, short attention span and easy distractibility a diagnosis.
Who would have thought that 28 years later, the National Center for Health Statistics would report that over 5 million American kids (8 percent) between the ages of 3-17 would receive this diagnosis? That’s 1 out of 12, with about half of those on medication.
Not long ago, 7-year-old Brooke was on a medical regimen that might seem extreme, even for an adult: The 43-pound girl was prescribed multiple mind-altering psychotropic drugs.
Dealt a tough hand early in life — her birth mother had a history of drug dealing and prostitution — Brooke was prone to extreme tantrums and wild behavior. Her foster mother, Lisa Ward, says a Florida foster care agency instructed her to take the girl to a mental health clinic. The clinic prescribed anti-psychotic medication, often used to treat schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder.
“Within a few weeks, probably two, they decided that it wasn’t working. They needed to do something else,” Ward recalled. “At this point, she’s getting worse, she’s not getting any better.”
Brooke was given 10 different prescriptions in four months, with the clinic frequently increasing her doses.
A 12-year-old boy has bravely told how he was medicated into a near-stupor as he was passed between foster care homes. The seventh grader, known only as Ke’onte, told Congress that being given the mind-altering drugs was ‘the worst thing anyone could do to foster kids’. He revealed that he could barely eat while on the medication and was so exhausted ‘it felt like I would collapse wherever I was in the house’. ‘I’ve been in the mental hospital three times during foster care, and every time I had to get on more meds or new meds to add to the ones I was already taking,’ he said.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is published by the American Psychiatric Association. The DSM provides a common language and standard criteria for the classification of mental disorders, which is used in the United States and to some extent internationally, by clinicians, researchers, psychiatric drug regulation agencies, health insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, and policy makers. The DSM is produced by a panel of psychiatrists, many of whom have financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry. It is considered the “bible” of American psychiatry. The latest edition — DSM-IV — was published in 1994.
In 1952, the DSM was a small, spiral-bound handbook (DSM-I), but the latest edition (DSM-IV), is a 943-page magnum opus. Over time, psychiatric diagnoses have increased in the American population and in turn, drugs that affect mental states are then used to treat them. The theory that psychiatric conditions are caused by a biochemical imbalance is often used as a justification for their widespread use, even though the theory in unproven. Since there are no objective tests for mental illness and what is normal and abnormal is often unclear, psychiatry is a particularly fertile field for creating new diagnoses or broadening old ones.