The new DSM? Psych wonks can be well meaning, and dangerous

So, I’m going to rant a bit. My ranting will be restrained, but I will rant.

Amusingly enough my CD changer just randomly plucked Kate Bush’s “Hammer Horror” and started playing it as I sat down to write this. The general… eh, let’s say ‘maniacal’.. nature of Kate bush’s music needs no * further comments. The synchronicity is awesome

One should never let technocrats rule. Have you ever watched the movie “Brazil” ? A good deal of Monty Python’s humor poked at the amusing excesses of technocracy and bureaucracy?

Seriously folks.

I came across an article in the Daily Mail (you can read it by clicking here commenting on the recent revisions to the psychiatric DSM. The article pissed me off. actually, it blows.

Interestingly enough, the DSM now documents an array of new disorder categories that, in effect, pathologize certain fringes of normal emotional behavior.

Like what? Well, like a predisposition to extreme anger, or a tendency to collect certain things beyond what may be considered normal.. in our culture. Also interesting, there is a disorder that describes a tendency to become disgusted and, even, enraged by pornography.

Getting excessively pissed off is now a mental disorder. Who sets what is normative? Experts? Ever personally known psychiatrists ? (or psychologists, for that matter) They are not exactly more well adjusted than the rest of us. In fact I’ve noticed a tendency of people to go into these fields as a way of working out their own inner demons.

There is nothing wrong with this, it is to be expected. We are all trying to heal. We all need to heal.

The problem with such diagnostic criteria is that there always lurks not only obedience to a general social and political correctness as a normalizing factor, but a very well documented history of psychiatry’s general conformity to political tendencies that can, plainly put, be seen as totalitarian. And even if this wasn’t the case, the ability of ideology to affect the socially acceptable definitions of sanity is dangerous.

It’s bloody amazing, most people go through 4 years of undergrad, and learn almost nothing about eugenics, the most profoundly far reaching and influential scientifically motivated social and intellectual movement in the 19th and 20th century.

The history’s there, But only recently have people largely started interrogating it, questioning it, opening it and exposing its secrets.

Eugenics has affected so many things, like a hidden ghost, whose lingering fingertips has left marks on just about every social institution in the English and Germanic Western world. Public education? Buy me a coffee and I could lecture your ears off for 2 hours about the role of eugenics in molding curricula and informing institutional changes in mass public education. Medicine ? Ditto. Psychiatry? Well, ditto. I’m not even talking about German psychology and psychiatry’s broad complicity in the third Reich, I’m talking about in America, and England.

This is history that people should know, consider, and be informed about. Only by being informed can we really take a place in the debates of the day.. if we care to (and most people, arguably, do not. but rather prefer lunching out in front of American Idol.. which does provide fuel to the arguments of the pro-eugenicists, one supposes..)

There are countless social institutions that we still have whose initial impetus lay in the eugenic regimentation of society. Take marriage licenses, for instance. They gained circulation as a way of registering and tracking racial AND CLASS miscegenation. This is well documented in academic literature, and even better documented in the popular press, on the part of investigative journalists.

Now, back to, psychology and psychiatry, they played interesting roles in this affair early on, this is but one instance of how social and political ideologies can sway dispassionate science. When that science has the ability to declare normal, or abnormal, anything in the range of human emotional responses, you have unimaginable power being held in the hands of a dangerous cognitive elite.

I’ve all but given up thinking that the population at large will care much about these matters unless it affects them personally, and intimately. What they do not realize is that such matters do affect them.. personally. Even if this hasn’t personally manifested in one’s life yet, it lurks unseen.. the ability of a wonk in a white coat to declare your personal peculiarities, what hither were but simple quirks, like personality quirks, as pathological, diseased, medicalized.

..the power, to declare what were previously simply slight twists of your personality as unnatural, abnormal, and in need of correction… is a dangerous power..

And by way of correction, most likely what is contemplated is by pharmacological means.

If, when, you allow governance by social scientists, what you will end up with shall be a centralized technocracy, capable of absurdities that would make the most bizarre characters in any random Terry Gilliam movie seem normal by comparison. A society upside down, pill popping, and medicated into safety. Safe homeostasis.

It is a critical and tragic mistake, in our society, to medicalize what was once normal human behavior, and to pathologize extremes of emotional expression. You may not see it as a mistake, but think it through.

There is nothing pathological about extreme anger or extreme joy, nor in what lies in between. Joy, rage, hate, love – these are normal expressions of human emotion when faced with crisis.

A crisis is not a bad thing, it is simply a critical state, a state of imbalance. Life is full of balance and imbalance alike.

When an influential cognitive elite, in this case the psychiatric profession, declares much of the normal range of human behavior as abnormal and thus pathological, this can pose far reaching threats to our well being.

Look, we need to feel, as human beings, and sometimes what we need to feel are extremes of feeling, this is necessary to maintain a truly holistic balance in our lives. Deprive people of this and you deprive them of something quite important.

When our emotional wings are clipped at the edges, to make us fit square boxes defined by professionals who are as flawed as we are, and perhaps more, this will impoverish our emotional and personal lives.

Hmm, the CD changer just popped up the Afghan Whigs. Amusing synchronicity Greg Duli’s crooning about one of his (somewhat well known) neurosis’s..

“…it’s in our hearts, it’s in our heads, it’s in our love, baby it’s in our beds…
tonight I go to hell, for what I’ve done to you..”

Poll question.
Post-punk Crooner time.
Craig Wedren, or Greg Duli. Best voice contest guys, thoughts?

Who’s the better post-punk male singer
Craig Wedren, of Shudder to Think
Greg Duli, of The Afghan Whiggs
David Yow, the Jesus Lizard
I could put Chris Cornell here.. but I won’t. free polls

* This isn’t to rag on Kate Bush, she’s talented.. hence she’s in, or rather her music is in, my CD changer.

6 Comment

  1. And why do men have such an aversion to being “controlled” by women?

    Why do they interpret suggestions for healthy living as “control”?

  2. Pretty much sums up my sentiments on the matter. There is a deeply totalitarian strand in the history of psychiatry.

    Anyway, the field’s highly subjective and not exactly ‘hard science’.

  3. I had a professor in grad school who DEFINED pathology as anything that is inappropriate. Hard science folks! That’s what you get from behavioral fascism!

  4. have you noticed how bad skin and bad teeth are becoming things of the past? soon, bad personality will as well!

    Idiosyncracies are personality and phooey to the harvesters of what they call beauty. Their sickles breed character for those of us who survive.

  5. I hope… what they try to harvest is what makes us unique and beautiful inside, they homogenize us into flat perfect little units of consumption and production.

    I’d take my “flaws” over their perfection any day…

Leave a Reply