UPDATE: I'm going to keep this post at the top for a while, because the topic is important and deserves some discussion. Please read the comments. There are some interesting thoughts.
The problem with psychiatry and psychology, well one of them, is the inability to agree on what exactly is the problem. For all the jokes about economists disagreeing on how to diagnose the state of financial affairs, the mental-health profession is notoriously unscientific and unstandardized and divided about mental affairs. This from the New York Times' writer Benedict Carry:
“Psychiatry has made great strides in helping kids manage mental illness, particularly moderate conditions, but the system of diagnosis is still 200 to 300 years behind other branches of medicine,” said Dr. E. Jane Costello, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke University. “On an individual level, for many parents and families, the experience can be a disaster; we must say that.”Part of the reason these "disasters" happen, of course, is that every person is an individual and variable and unique. Even more important, every psychologist and psychiatrist is individual and unique and bristles at the notion of imposed criteria even though the DSM receives as much reverence as the Bible.
So, adults, but even more concerning, children, receive various and sundry diagnoses and treatments depending on who they see and that health care professional's beliefs and biases. Children who aren't really mentally unbalanced receive diagnoses when the answer might be diet, discipline, parenting skills, getting a moral education (i.e. church) or changes in academic environments (to name a few changes.) Everyone today, has a mental problem. And children are being diagnosed, "treated" and medicated younger and younger. And that leads to the state were in today:
At least six million American children have difficulties that are diagnosed as serious mental disorders, according to government surveys — a number that has tripled since the early 1990s. But there is little convincing evidence that the rates of illness have increased in the past few decades. Rather, many experts say it is the frequency of diagnosis that is going up, in part because doctors are more willing to attribute behavior problems to mental illness, and in part because the public is more aware of childhood mental disorders.There is no such thing as Jame's Dobson's "Strong-Willed Child". There are only children, heck, there are only adults, who have "disorders" or "issues" that must be medicated and treated.
Beginning in the 1990s some researchers began to argue that bipolar disorder was underdiagnosed in adults. Soon, several child psychiatrists were arguing that the illness was more common than previously thought in children too.Is this healthy? Is there any scientific basis for these sweeping cultural and health care changes? No and no.
Some experts who made those arguments had ties to manufacturers of antipsychotic drugs, financial interests disclosed in professional journals. But the message struck a chord, particularly with doctors and parents trying to manage difficult children.
Parents whose children have been given the label tend to adopt the psychiatric jargon, using terms like “cycling” and “mania” to describe their children’s behavior. Dozens of them have published books, CDs, or manuals on how to cope with children who have bipolar disorder.
Too many adults absolve themselves of responsibility and the mental health profession encourages this--more patients equals a better economic future. Too many adults lack coping skills and pass this deficit along to their children.
Even children with diagnoses like Autism, must eventually decide (if they are able) how to navigate the world and usually this decision hinges on the parent's own decision about how to interpret Autism. "Oh it's terrible, debilitating, a life-long scourge". Or, "This is what you're capable of, I know you can do it, and how can we make this happen?"
The mental health profession, by removing responsibility, removes the patient's ability to change his or her lot in life. This is terribly unhelpful in the long-run. Rather than building resilience and coping mechanisms, people are sympathized with and coddled. What kind of future does this fragile person possess? And, worse, how are the supposed helpers harming those who need the most support?
Our children will pay a very stiff price for these interventions not just neurobiologically. Their minds and bodies are being monkeyed with and there is almost no scientific support for any of what passes for treatment. More importantly, children are being taught that the solution to their problems is outside of them, beyond their ability to handle and hopeless. These are not people who will grow into healthy, tough-minded adults. Rather, they will be a whole other class of victims waiting for society to "make it better."