August 8, 2007

sometimes I just know too much

I came across this blog post today that I really responded to, as I have a mild case of the crazies myself. Given the immense popularity of that Gnarls Barkley song last summer, I wonder how many other people do too even if they haven't been designated a DSM label. Yet. Certain quarters of the psychiatric community seem to be busily pathologizing and classifying every aspect of human behaviour that doesn't fit neatly and inconspicuously into middle-brow civilization. This review by L.J. Davis, previously published in Harpers Magazine, is a great (and entertaining!) synopsis of the DSM, its history, and potential misuse: Encyclopedia Of Insanity — A Psychiatric Handbook Lists a Madness for Everyone.

According to Wikipedia, surely as indisputable as the DSM manual itself, "roughly 50% of the authors who previously selected and defined the DSM psychiatric disorders have had or have financial relationships with pharmaceutical industries and drug companies." It is disturbing that you can sometimes track the rising numbers of a particular psychiatric diagnosis (ADD, Bipolar Disorder, etc) to the availability and marketing drive of a new drug. Also good to remember, the DSM once classified homosexuality as a mental disorder. That's how relevant to reality this 'bible' of the psychiatric community can be.

On to the blog that precipitated this post:
Most people who do not have a diagnosis define themselves as "normal". They think of anyone who does have one as "incredibly different" from them, right off the bat, when that probably isn't the case. It's a distancing technique. A way to say, "That's not me, and never will be," but one never knows. We exist along a continuum, I think, and we see how environmental factors influence the onset and the appearance of mental patterns or features labelled as "crazy". The "way florid" exist at one end of a continuum, and those seen as "incredibly stable" exist at the other, while most of us fall somewhere in between. We also move around on this "scale of stability" throughout our lives, as we experience stressful events or changes in our consciousness.
You can read the rest of it at the larmes de pamplemousse blog. Some of the comments at the end are worth reading too. Last quote from the above:
True and lasting empathy for one another often puts us - crazy or not - out of our comfort zone.
To which I would add, displaying true and lasting empathy might earn you the crazy label as well. With or without the DSM.

- - - - -

(updated January 17, 2008)

No comments: