Thursday, 20 May 2010

Psychiatry Enters Dangerous Territory

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The new fourth revision of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) published by the American Psychiatric Association may define several new psychiatric disorders. Some of these do not sound like varieties of mental illness at all, but rather opinions and attitudes. What would “oppositional defiant disorder,” for example, represent?

According to the new edition of the Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, this would include those who have “negativistic, defiant, disobedient and hostile behavior toward authority figures.” Other varieties of newly created mental illnesses included being antisocial, arrogant, or cynical.

Those familiar with psychiatry in the Soviet Union will cringe at this sort of neo-psychiatry. Authority, for example, may often be wrong in a society. The right to contend with authority has long been considered a primary right of a free people. Soviet psychiatrists, however, institutionalized and “treated” those who defied Soviet authority, which was considered, per se, a variety of mental illness.

Cynicism is often the most sensible attitude of those who find government and politics to be a cesspool of corruption. The presumption that society and government are functioning properly, which is implicit in these new psychiatric “disorders,” looks very Orwellian. Only the dullest mind, or the most sheepish people, can look at our tax code, our school system, our immigration policies, and our foreign policy and see only goodness and wisdom.

Psychiatric opinions can have a dramatic impact upon court rulings. Laws are often built around those opinions: the right to bear arms, for example, is denied to those who have a history of mental illness. What if that mental illness is defined as a profound distrust of government in America? Then government would have the right to disarm those who saw something very wrong in our political system.

Many parents already worry about the over-medication of children, who may well be the first group diagnosed under these new standards. Eccentric children have often been the greatest men in history. Mozart, for example, was hyperactive (by today’s standards) and approached music differently than conventional composers did. Did he have a mental illness? Or was he rather, as the Pope who knew him said, “Amadeus” — Beloved of God? How about Capablanca, the greatest child chess prodigy in history? Was he mentally ill?

Both of those men led relatively conventional lives, but what about men like Newton and Beethoven, who were considered to be misanthropic. Was this mental illness, which must be treated with therapy and drugs? Or was it, rather, the expected response of geniuses living among men of much weaker minds? Treating such unique men with drugs and therapy might deprive mankind of its greatest innovators and analysts.

The politics of collectivism permeates every aspect of modern life. Individuality, uniqueness, privacy, and separation are inherent rights of free men. These are also anathema to collectivism, which views us all as interchangeable parts of a vast, impersonal, statist machine. Psychiatry which does not account for the particular nature of each of us is not medicine and it is not science: it is simply collectivism lathered on something called medical science.

Photo: AP Images

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