Rethinking Psychology

How to shed mental health labels and create personal meaning

Now They Want to Label Grief "Depression"

Having labeled sadness "depression," now they plan to add grief

I am in the first few weeks of talking about my new book Rethinking Depression and its publication coincides with the efforts of the mental health labeling task force to re-label grief as "depression." I'll say more about that re-labeling obscenity in a moment.

The first weeks of a book's existence are very interesting because, as prepared as you may be with your talking points, unexpected questions come up. You may well have the answers but they may not be on the tip of your tongue.

Sometimes the lovely, appropriate answer only comes to you an hour or two after the question got asked, which is rather late since by that time you are no longer speaking with the interviewer in Colorado Springs who asked the question but instead with an interviewer in Orlando with something completely different on his mind. It is a very interesting process!

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What I am seeing in these first weeks is how quickly folks with no training in psychology (that is, radio show hosts) understand my main points just a few minutes into the conversation. This is perhaps partly a testament to the eloquence of my talking points but it has to be in large measure due to their readiness to hear the news that human anguish is one thing and that a "mental disorder of depression" is a fish of another color. The radio hosts are "getting it," which is very gratifying.

The funniest interchange occurred with a host in Kansas City.

Host: Wow, the pharmaceutical companies are not going to like you!

Me: I'm guessing they're not taking much notice. I suspect that I'm just a gnat to them, if even that.

Host: Ah, but one day you may grow up to be a grasshopper!

I've also been getting interesting email notes of all sorts. Here is one from an experienced physician:

"Hi, Eric, blessings to you. Got your book Rethinking Depression and just read nearly all of it aloud to my spouse, who has long maintained that if we had to forage for food all day, depression would be a thing of the past. We are physicians who've practiced for thirty years and are appalled at the patients we care for who are on SSRIs. That's nearly half of the patients we see. I'll read on in Rethinking Depression but so far, I agree completely. Yes, you are unhappy. Take a good look at your life, figure out what you're doing that makes you feel that way, and change it!"

Not precisely the message of the book but close enough!

A lot is going on in the wider world that connects to Rethinking Depression. As you may know, right at this moment the mental health industry is busily revising the manual it uses to create mental health labels. The folks doing this creating are doing such a profligate job of creating new disorders that even mental health professionals are pushing back, and by the thousands. This past week a firestorm of protest arose in Britain about the proposed changes and additions. Here's a taste of that pushback as reported in Reuters:

"Allen Frances of Duke University and chair of the committee that oversaw the previous DSM revision said DSM-5 would 'radically and recklessly expand the boundaries of psychiatry' and result in the 'lexicalization of normality, individual difference, and criminality.' David Pilgrim of Britain's University of Central Lancashire said it was 'hard to avoid the conclusion that DSM-5 will help the interests of the drug companies.' 'Madness and misery exist but they come in many shapes and sizes,' he said. 'We risk treating the experience and conduct of people as if they are botanical specimens waiting to be identified and categorized in rigid boxes. That would itself be a form of collective madness for all those complicit in the continuing pseudo-scientific exercise.'"

Also this past week Lancet, one of the most prestigious medical journals around, jumped into the fray, wagging a finger at the effort by the manual revisers to turn grief into a mental disorder:

"Previous DSM editions have highlighted the need to consider, and usually exclude, bereavement before diagnosis of a major depressive disorder. In the draft version of DSM-5, however, there is no such exclusion for bereavement, which means that feelings of deep sadness, loss, sleeplessness, crying, inability to concentrate, tiredness, and no appetite, which continue for more than 2 weeks after the death of a loved one, could be diagnosed as depression, rather than as a normal grief reaction. Medicalizing grief, so that treatment is legitimized routinely with antidepressants, for example, is not only dangerously simplistic, but also flawed. The evidence base for treating recently bereaved people with standard antidepressant regimens is absent. In many people, grief may be a necessary response to bereavement that should not be suppressed or eliminated. For those who are grieving, doctors would do better to offer time, compassion, remembrance, and empathy, than pills."

My blog on Psychology Today is called Rethinking Psychology. I named it that because we have some fundamental rethinking to do with regard to just about everything related to the mental health industry and the practice of psychology. There is almost no corner of that vast enterprise that can stand up to scrutiny and of course that scrutiny may well have to occur piecemeal. That isn't the best way to create change but when the elephant in the room is also a many-headed hydra then all we can do is tackle the beast head-by-head.

Back to the trenches ...

If you'd like your copy of Rethinking Depression, please visit here.

If you'd like to join the forthcoming online class I'll be teaching on the subject, please visit here.

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Eric Maisel, Ph.D., is a psychotherapist, bestselling author of 40 books, and widely regarded as America's foremost creativity coach. His latest book is Rethinking Depression: How to Shed Mental Health Labels and Create Personal Meaning (New World Library, February, 2012) and is available here. Dr. Maisel is the founder of noimetic psychology, the new psychology of meaning. Please visit Dr. Maisel at http://www.ericmaisel.com or contact him at ericmaisel@hotmail.com. You can learn more about noimetic psychology at http://www.infinitemeaningclass.com and more about Rethinking Depression at http://www.rethinkingdepression.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eric Maisel, Ph.D., is the author of forty books, among them Rethinking Depression.

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