Alarms Sounded About Harm from Psychiatric Labeling

Readers of this blog may recall that I recently wrote about the decision of some therapists not to disclose to their patients that a widespread claim that emotional suffering is caused by chemical imbalance is actually false (

Note, then, that the vice-chair of the task force for the forthcoming edition of the "Bible" of psychiatric classification, psychiatrist Darrell Regier, wrote just last year: "While we agree that human feelings and behaviors exist on a spectrum that contains some overlap of normal reactions to disease states, psychiatry also recognizes that there are real and discrete disorders of the brain that cause mental disorders and that can benefit from treatment." (1)

The spurious basis for claims that the vast majority of emotionally suffering is based in chemical imbalances and "broken brains" is only one of many reasons for protest in both the United States and many other countries against both the current edition of the manual and the one now in preparation. In a February 9, 2012, Guardian article titled "Psychologists fear US manual will widen mental illness diagnosis," (2) health editor Sarah Boseley notes that both psychiatrists and psychologists in the United Kingdom are speaking out against the forthcoming Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

It is clearly the case that certain physical problems, such as brain tumors, traumatic brain injuries, degenerative neurological conditions, exposures to chemicals and other toxins, food allergies, certain vitamin or mineral deficiencies, to name just a few, can cause changes in mood and behavior and cause emotional suffering. That is not even a question. But many such problems are overlooked in the rush to label the symptoms of these conditions as simply psychologically caused.

Of course the concern about psychiatric diagnosis is the way that nearly emotional state except for happiness and serenity have come to be labeled signs of allegedly brain-based disorders in need of medical treatments and techniques.

Boseley quotes Til Wykes, professor of clinical psychology at Kings College London, as saying. "The proposals in DSM-5 are likely to shrink the pool of normality to a puddle with more and more people being given a diagnosis of mental illness."

These are some of the factors and concerns that led the PLAN T Alliance to adopt a slightly amended version of the recent, courageous statement by the International Society for Ethical Psychiatry and Psychology about the DSM. The PLAN T Alliance statement reads as follows and can be found at
"It is the position of the PLAN T Alliance (Psychiatric Labeling Action Network for Truth) that the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM), a publication of the American Psychiatric Association, is a political rather than scientific document, one which damages human beings. Despite the position of its authors that it is primarily descriptive, the DSM supports the perpetuation of myths about mental, emotional, and behavioral disturbances in individuals which favor pseudoscientific, biological explanations and disregard their lived context. The evolving editions of the DSM have been remarkable in expanding psychiatric labels for alleged "mental illnesses" with no scientifically substantiated biological etiologies.

The forthcoming DSM-5 edition continues this process while attempting to deepen indoctrination of mental health providers, consumers, and third-party payers into the fallacy that problems in living result from problems in biology. Adherents of biopsychiatric explanations and pharmaceutical manufacturers are the primary benefactors of public acceptance of this myth. Beyond research and technical studies which repeatedly demonstrate the inherent lack of validity and reliability of the DSM as a classification system, psychiatric labeling has real consequences in discriminating against and oppressing the disadvantaged, creating unnecessary obstacles to employment, housing, and social acceptance, lending false credibility to the concept of psychiatric disability, assaulting self-worth and self-efficacy, and undermining reestablishment of positive life-striving by inducing "behaviors to label" among people who have been so labeled.

In the PLAN T Alliance's view, conscientious and ethical provision of services to those suffering from mental, behavioral, and emotional disturbances is primarily a moral, social, political, and philosophical enterprise. The PLAN T Alliance supports helpers who wish to eschew use of the DSM-5 and its prior systems. The PLAN T Alliance recommends public scrutiny and skepticism regarding the DSM, as well as a constructive dismantling of the psychiatric-pharmaceutical complex through which it is continually supported and redeployed."

(2) Ibid.

© Copyright 2012 Paula J. Caplan All rights reserved

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