News & Politics  
comments_image Comments

7 Reasons America's Mental Health Industry Is a Threat to Our Sanity

Drug industry corruption, scientifically unreliable diagnoses and pseudoscientific research have compromised the values of the psychiatric profession.

Continued from previous page


Due in large part to Biederman’s influence, the number of American children and adolescents treated for bipolar disorder increased 40-fold from 1994 to 2003. Pediatrician and author Lawrence Diller notes about Biederman, “He single-handedly put pediatric bipolar disorder on the map.” In addition to his popularization of bipolar disorder for children, Biederman is one of the most significant forces behind the expanding numbers diagnosed with ADHD; and congressional investigators also discovered that Biederman conducted studies of Eli Lilly's ADHD drug Strattera that were funded by National Institute of Health at the same time he was receiving money from Lilly.

Not only does the drug industry have influential psychiatrists such as Biederman in their pocket, virtually every major mental health institution is financially interconnected with Big Pharma. Congressional hearings also exposed the American Psychiatric Association psychiatry’s premier professional organization, as being on the take from drug companies. In 2006, the drug industry accounted for about 30 percent of the APA’s $62.5 million in financing. Most relevant here, the APA is the publisher of the psychiatric diagnostic bible, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), and thus the APA is the institution responsible for creating mental illnesses and disorders.

2. Invalid Illnesses and Disorders

Psychiatry’s first DSM (1952) and its DSM-II (1968) listed homosexuality as a mental illness. Only because of a fierce political fight waged in the 1970s by gay activists did the APA abolish homosexuality as an illness and eliminate it from its DSM-III (1980). Gay activists’ fight was not only a victory for themselves but a service for everyone else, as it made public the important scientific problem of psychiatric disorder invalidity. Specifically, are psychiatric disorders scientifically valid illnesses, or are they simply behaviors that create discomfort for some authorities at a given moment in time?

While psychiatry lost homosexuality as a mental illness in the 1980 DSM-III, the APA found other groups it could pathologize, groups that could not mobilize and resist, most notably children, who are now routinely given psychiatric diagnoses for behaviors that many of us view as normal for their ages.

Psychiatry sees it as within responsible professional standards to diagnose three-year-olds such as Rebecca Riley with bipolar disorder. The symptoms of bipolar disorder include irritable and rapidly changing moods, severe temper tantrums, defiance of authority, agitation and distractibility, sleeping too little or too much, poor judgment, impulsivity and grandiose beliefs.

Psychiatry also sees it as within responsible professional standards for Rebecca Riley to have been diagnosed at 28 months old with ADHD. The symptoms of ADHD are inattention (easily distracted and bored, difficulty organizing and completing tasks, losing things, not seeming to listen, not following instructions); hyperactivity (fidgeting, talking nonstop, having trouble sitting still, difficulty with quiet tasks), and impulsivity (impatience, blurting out inappropriate comments, interrupting conversations).

Today, children and teens are also diagnosed with oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), the symptoms of which include “often actively defies or refuses to comply with adult requests or rules,” and “often argues with adults.”

The standard for a medical disorder should not be whether or not an individual causes friction.

3. Scientifically Unreliable Diagnoses

Even if you believe that bipolar disorder for three-year-olds, ADHD for two-year-olds, ODD for teenagers, and all the other DSM diagnoses are valid disorders, there is still the scientific issue of diagnostic unreliability—the lack of diagnostic agreement among professionals examining the same person.

A generation ago, psychiatrists admitted that their diagnoses were unreliable and agreed that this was a major scientific problem. So in 1980, in an attempt to eliminate this embarrassment, they created the DSM-III with concrete behavioral checklists and formal decision-making rules, but they failed to correct the problem. Psychiatric diagnoses remain unreliable, but now psychiatry no longer talks about the unreliability problem.

See more stories tagged with: