The Australian government and the Australian Medical Association are targeting 27,000 three-year-olds for psychiatric treatment. A new government funded program seeks to treat normal preschool children to discover if they show “signs of mental illness.” What are the symptoms of mental illness in three-year-olds? Shyness, temper tantrums and needing to sleep with the light on. Yes, folks, I guess even monster in the closet is now a symptom of psychosis. The whole human race must need psychiatric medication.
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 Now children who sit too quietly or are more withdrawn than their peers will also be targeted with medication for social anxiety disorder or depression.
Even in these overly medicalised times, where feeling well is increasingly confused with awaiting diagnosis, the idea that well over a third of Europe is suffering from a mental disorder just doesn’t tally with our actual lived experience. After all, does it not seem absurd to think that one in every three Europeans is mentally ill? As many have observed before, absurdity abounds in the psychiatric worldview. The most banal of everyday behaviours, emotional states that I’d wager almost everyone has encountered at some point in their lives, have been given technical, medical-sounding names. So shyness becomes ‘avoidant personality disorder’; anger becomes ‘intermittent explosive disorder’; and if the experts get their way, not throwing stuff away will become ‘hoarding disorder’. In an incredible bit of insightless prose, we are told by DSM’s recent consultation document that, ‘The symptoms [of hoarding disorder] result in the accumulation of a large number of possessions that fill up and clutter active living areas of the home or workplace to the extent that their intended use is no longer possible’.
Are you normal? Are you sure? A growing number of behaviors and moods are being relabeled as mental disorders, according to two recent articles. Sadness, shyness, personality quirks and the ups and downs of everyday life may qualify almost anyone for a psychiatric diagnosis, effectively pathologizing normality.
Ten years ago, if you described shyness or restless legs as a bona fide illness, people would have laughed. But these conditions are just part of an epidemic of newly-invented illnesses sweeping Britain. And we take them so seriously we’re prepared to swallow handfuls of strong and sometimes harmful pills. As the Mail reported yesterday, we have become a nation of pill poppers…