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Sunday, October 17, 2010

It is Seductive When the TV Tells Us Our Depression as Disease

There are powerful economic social and political reasons to call depression a disease. It is not a brain disease, it is over-extension of  the triggering of the fight or flight response. It can be
self- managed. Why don't our doctors teach us how to do it? First, follow the money. Depression is a multi-billion dollar economic enterprise for the psychiatric and pharmaceutical communities. Don't kid yourself, Doctors and scientists have mortgages and college tuitions to think about, too.
Socially,to insist that depression is a disease gives a measure of importance and approbation to what used to be ordinary malingering. This is hollow  victory for those who would achieve success and self-fulfillment if they would educate themselves about the way to manage depression themselves, and be more self-responsible. Unfortunately, it is very seductive to find a way to absolve ourselves of self-responsibility when we are losing the battle with depression. Again, any victory over self-responsibility is hollow.
Actress Patty Duke wrote in her book, A Brilliant Madness,how “relieved” she was to find she had an “illness,” how comforting to know that her depression and her behavior had not been “her fault.” These are the first four words in her book, all in caps: A DISEASE? THANK GOD!  Celebrities like Duke are part of the social forces urging us to accept this doctor-approved “relief” from thinking our behavior is our responsibility.
The idea that depression and manic depression are physical illnesses  still continues with few challanges in the mainstream medical and psychological community, except for a few stalwart souls such as psychiatrists Thomas S. Szasz and, to a lesser degree, retired Chief Psychiatrist of Johns Hopkins, Paul McHugh. In Szasz’s books, The Myth of Mental Illness and Psychiatry: The Science of Lies and others, he debunks the whole idea that people can be mentally rather than physically  ill, with mental symptoms in need of a doctor’s treatment rather than physical symptoms.
And  Newseek Magazine ‘s cover story  on 1/29/2010 claimed that new research shows that anti-depressants are no better than placebos for depression.
Dr. Szasz,  psychiatry’s most dissident psychiatrist, was once dismissed from his university position for insisting that physicians were trained to treat bodily malfunctioning, not “economic, moral, racial, religious, or political ‘ills’...That doctors were trained to treat bodily diseases, not envy and rage, fear and folly, poverty and stupidity, and all the other miseries that beset man.”
 Szasz claims that the concept of mental illness came about because it is “possible for a person to act and to appear as if he were sick without actually having a bodily disease.”  He believes that mental illness is not a useful concept, that it is scientifically worthless and socially harmful because mental illness is not so much a disease as it is a metaphor for something the person is trying to communicate.
“People have been convinced that “what are really matters of their individuality are, instead, medical problems,” reiterates McHugh. “Restless, impatient people are convinced that they have attention-deficit disorder (ADD); anxious, vigilant people that they suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder; stubborn, orderly, perfectionist people that they are afflicted with obsessive-compulsive disorder; shy, sensitive people that they manifest avoidant personality disorder, or social phobia.”
And, insists McHugh, “wherever they look, such people find psychiatrists willing, even eager to accommodate them or, worse, leading the charge.” McHugh at least is questioning much of the present-day diagnosis of social phobia and multiple personality disorders. Even manic depression, admits McHugh is a presumed disease. The presumption, he declares, “carries the implication that some as-yet-undemonstrated pathological mechanisms and etiological agencies will emerge to explain the stereotyped set of symptoms.”To me this seems like pretty thin stuff to trust one’s life to and yet this “disease theory” of bipolar disorder is present-day medical orthodoxy.

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