Fox News just informed viewers that 27 million Americans are being treated for depression. The Washington Times ran a three-part series this week on the tsunami of mental illness in New Orleans four years after Hurricane Katrina, mostly depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). A rash of additional articles has appeared nationwide on obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), including one from last Sunday’s (August 2) Washington Times “Pure suffering for OCD Patients,” by Cheryl Weinstein. All news sources, regardless of political persuasion, lend the aura of medical legitimacy to these phenomena.
Clinical psychologist Richard Bentall takes issue with the mainstream psychiatric view that mental problems are genetically determined brain diseases that must be treated with drugs. The diagnoses are inaccurate, the genetics and neurobiology overstated, and the drugs oversold and overprescribed. Bentall pulls no punches: “Psychiatry has failed.”
Quite how the association will decide when normal kvetching becomes a sickness—or reasonable amounts of sex become excessive—is still anyone’s guess.
We can hold the DSM, currently in its fourth edition, responsible for transforming everyday sadness into a medical condition. It now diagnoses human response to loss, save for the death of a loved one, as depression.