An editorial in The Lancet Psychiatry discusses the potential harms that come with the use of the medicalized language of mental health. Medicalization, which can be “responsible for applying harmful labels to suffering individuals in the form of diagnoses and pseudo-technical descriptions,” has crept into social and political explanations of violence and terrorism. But another form of medicalization, what the editor’s dub “non-medical medicalization,” has grown up alongside this tendency, providing clinical weight to non-clinical social phenomena.
The World Health Organization (WHO) currently lists being transgender as a medical condition and mental illness. Critics argue that the world’s leading health organization need to revise their listings (which haven’t been updated since the ‘80s) and “drag the document into the 21st century.”
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recently issued a controversial recommendation that all adolescent and adult patients undergo depression screening in primary care. The Wall Street Journal has published a back and forth on this issue between Richard Chung, a pediatrician, and Allen Frances, the well-known academic psychiatrist, entitled “Should All Teens Be Screened for Depression?”. While Chung argues that early diagnoses may lead to better outcomes, Frances insists that screening will lead to the medicalization of normal adolescence and worries that “teens may be haunted for life by carelessly applied labels.”
A new analysis of the information that the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) publishes for parents about attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) concludes that the children’s experiences and contexts are ignored and that medication is presented, misleadingly, as the only solution supported by research evidence. The researchers also point out that “cause and effects of ‘ADHD’ are intertwined through circular argumentation,” with the materials describing certain behaviors as a disorder and then later asserting that those same behaviors are caused by that disorder.
On Sunday, the front page of the UK’s Independent ran a story entitled, “Thousands of children are being medicated for ADHD – when the condition may not even exist.” Fiction novelist and author of the upcoming “Concentr8,” William Sutcliffe, writes, “The pharmaceutical/medical industry teaches us that whatever the problem, a pill is the answer.” “This notion is becoming so all-powerful, and so locked together with a pressurised, exam-centred, conformist educational system, that every parent who has a misbehaving or inattentive child may now find themselves pushed towards a diagnosis of ADHD.”
In recent years, we’ve seen an increasing number of articles and papers from psychiatrists in which they seem to be accepting at least some of the antipsychiatry criticisms, and appear interested in reforms. It is tempting to see this development as an indication of progress, but as in many aspects of life, things aren’t always what they seem.
Copyright © 2016 Mad in America Foundation.