by Kenneth Justice
~ In 1974 the American Psychological Association reversed its position on same sex attraction; what they previously defined as a mental disorder (some manuscripts even listed it as a ‘perversion’) they now stated was nothing more than a natural element of life. Prior to the APA’s reversal, if a person were to go to a therapist or psychologist and mention same sex attraction there was a good chance they would be told they had a mental disorder, and in some cases even be admitted into a psychiatric ward.
Psychologists and the APA have a long standing tradition of poorly diagnosing the public, from viewing women as a second class gender and suffering from penis envy, to throwing thousands of people in psychiatric wards throughout the 20th century and treating them worse than laboratory rats.
In the last 20 years we’e seen a massive increase in the number of people prescribed psychotropic drugs from simple sleeping problems to not sitting still in classroom. According to a research study, “more money is spent promoting the new “wonder drugs” in the United States than on all medical school and residency training put together”. Think about that for a moment; more money is spent promoting drugs than on training medical professionals!
It wasn’t that long ago that it was illegal for hospitals and pharmaceutical companies to advertise in print media, radio, and television. But now it is common fare to hear a radio commercial or see a television advertisement promising you a better life if you ask your doctor to prescribe you a particular drug.
Isn’t there something wrong with a society that spends more money promoting drugs than training the medical professionals who prescribe the drugs? To borrow the colloquialism, we here in Western Culture have swallowed, hook line and sinker, the idea that we need to take a pill if we are sad, can’t sleep, or can’t sit still.
And what happens if you end up having serious side effects due to a misdiagnosis from a psychological professional? Do they lose their license? Do they have to reimburse you money or lost income from the drug that screwed up your life? Do they give you free therapy for life for harming you? Generally no.
A good friend of mine went through some serious depression following some major career setbacks after college. He was prescribed a drug by his psychiatrist that turned him into a zombie and literally crippled his mental and physical abilities for years. His doctors told him he was severely mentally ill and would never be able to work a job ever again. Surprisingly enough (not surprising actually) he switched doctors, got off the drug that was harming him, was prescribed something that was much more mild, and now a decade later he has been successfully working a 40 a week job for a few years now.
I would never suggest that all drugs (or all psychotropic drugs) are bad. There is a time and place to use them, and in some circumstances they can be extremely helpful. But in a society that spends more money promoting drugs, than training the medical professionals that prescribe them, we have created a brave new world of craziness.
Western Culture has in many ways become a society disconnected from nature. We spend more time in office buildings and automobiles than we do walking through the woods. We spend more time staring at the television than we do staring at a sunrise or watching birds fly alongside a stream.
How can we not expect to be more depressed, stressed out, and anxious when we literally poured a bunch of cement all over nature and removed ourselves from the very earth of which we came? How can we know what is a true mental illness and what isn’t when we’ve created lifestyles that are void of a connection to nature?
The Cult of Mental Health has taught us that the answer to all our problems is drugs. While drugs in certain situations can be a positive blessing to our lives, it is undeniable that until we learn to realign ourselves with a more emotionally sustainable way of life, we will never find peace.
Living in an artificial world is not mentally or physically fulfilling. Staring at screens, sitting in offices, and being stuck in stop-and-go traffic are unnatural to who we are as creatures. There is a reason that caged animals at zoos tend to have a shorter lifespan than animals in the wild. A recent study I read mentioned that elephants who walk on cement at the zoo are more prone to early onset arthritis than elephants in the wild.
It is a tragedy of Western Culture that when developers build suburban neighborhoods they tend to begin by tearing down all the trees in order for the overall cost of sprawl to be cheaper; its more expensive to build around trees as opposed to planting them later.
Perhaps fifty years from now the APA will change their positions on many of their published diagnoses; perhaps their manuals will encourage doctors to tell their patients to spend more time walking through the woods as a way of combating anxiety or to spend more time in community with friends as a way of curbing depression.
While drugs are not evil, the misdiagnosis and over diagnosis of drugs is unethical and irresponsible.
Just a few thoughts as I sipped my coffee,
Journal of Medical Humanities, Vol. 24, Nos. 1/2, Summer 2003 (°C 2003)
A Very Childish Moral Panic: Ritalin
Toby Miller1,3 and Marie Claire Leger2
Categories: Culture & Society