What is PBS, you ask? For goodness sake, you really must keep up to date with the latest medical jargon. It means Psycho-Babble Syndrome, about which I wrote recently. If you haven't got it then you need to aquire it - quick! And before you click away from this muttering to yourselves that 'Mr. Grumpy' from South Somerset is off another one today let me make clear that I have been provoked into this post by a book review in the Los Angeles Review of Books - and when it comes to psycho-babble, Los Angeles is the world's leader! I wrote about this just a few weeks ago and pointed to the malevolent synthesis between the psycho-babblers, themselves, and Big Pharma. What I had not realised, but Mr. Andrew Scull, the book reviewer, makes clear is that there is a third party to this unholy alliance - you! By which I mean, you, the general public. But first, let me reproduce the illustration I used in my previous post on this subject:
These increasingly large volumes are the Diagnostic and Statistical Manuals of the American Psychiatric Association, or, DSMs, for short. They contain all the boxes which require to be ticked in order for you to be 'diagnosed' with this, that or the other syndrome. The production, or perhaps 'construction', of DSM-V is on its way but has been much deleayed not least by honourable and brave intercessions by the main author of DSM-III, Robert Spitzer, and a leading contributor to DSM-IV, Allen Frances. These two men have gradually come to the conclusion that there is something rotten in the state of modern psychiatry and have become increasingly vocal about their doubts. Needless to say, the scientific world being bitchier than the Women's Institute, this has brought down buckets of brown stuff upon their heads. The book being reviewed, All We Have to Fear: Psychiatry’s Transformation of Natural Anxieties into Mental Disorders is written by Alan Horwitz and Jerome Wakefield.
The first, and perhaps the main, problem is diagnosis of mental illness and when, some time ago, certain psychiatrists investigated the process in a careful manner:
Their findings dramatically reinforced the growing suspicion that their profession’s claims to expertise were spurious. Prominent figures like Aaron Beck, Robert Spitzer, MG. Sandifer and Benjamin Pasamanick published systematic data that dramatized just how tenuous agreement was among psychiatrists, even the most prominent ones, regarding the nature of psychiatric pathology; consensus barely exceeded 50 percent whether the subjects were patients in state hospitals or out-patient settings. And in 1972, a systematic study of diagnostic practices in Britain and the United States found massive differences: New York psychiatrists diagnosed nearly 62 percent of their patients as schizophrenic, while in London only 34 percent received this diagnosis. And, while less than five percent of the New York patients were diagnosed with depressive psychoses, the comparable figure in London was 24 percent. Further examination of the patients suggested that these differences were byproducts of the preferences and prejudices of each group of psychiatrists, and yet they resulted in consequential differences in treatment. [My emphases throughout this post]
It was these sorts of criticisms which led to the decision of the American Psychiatric Association to try and pin down exactly which symptoms relate to which illnesses and publish them in a manual form. Thus was born the DSM volumes which, like Topsy, 'have growed and growed'. Needless to say, Big Pharma watching anxiously from the sidelines and rubbing its hands with glee at future profits to come from 'cures' for these spurious ailments encouraged the psychiatrists to greater efforts. Put simply , the more 'syndromes' there are, the more 'cures' can be offered - at a price, natch! But now the public has joined in. Get yourself a nice, handy 'syndrome' and it's, hey-ho, and off to your local DHSS for the requisite handout!
Consequently, the number and variety of 'syndromes' has multiplied:
Of more contemporary relevance, a range of commentators have noticed the explosive growth of depression as a diagnosis, to the point where it is now frequently termed ‘the common cold’ of psychiatry; the equally dramatic expansion in the number of children being diagnosed with ADHD; the appearance out of nowhere of juvenile bipolar disorder, which apparently became forty times as common between 1994 and 2004; the epidemic of autism, a formerly rare condition afflicting less than one in five hundred children in 1990, which has now mushroomed into a disease found in one in every ninety children. More than a few scholars have been tempted to attribute these seismic shifts not to any real alteration in the numbers of sufferers from these disorders, but to disease-mongering by the psychiatric profession and by Big Pharma, the multi-national pharmaceutical industry that obtains a huge fraction of its profits from the sale of drugs aimed at mental disorders of all sorts.
The construction of the DSM volumes provided cover for the psycho-babblers to hide behind. In effect, if enough of their more distinguished members agreed that, say, living and breathing were likely causes of high anxiety, which indeed they are for most of us at some time in our lives, then we can all be diagnosed as suffering with Living Breathing Anxiety Syndrome (LBAS)!
Oddly enough, just writing this has increased my heart rate, my eyes are bulging and I'm breathing heavily - sorry, must finish now - I'm off to my local psycho-babbler and then straight down to Social Services. Yippeee!