If a mental health professional would like to give your child a mental disorder label, for instance the label ADHD, inquire as to his or her rationale for doing so.
Ask questions like, “By ‘mental disorder’ do you mean ‘medical issue’? If you do not mean ‘medical issue,’ why do you want to prescribe medicine for my child? If you do mean ‘medical issue,’ please explain to me what the medical issue is and what the evidence for it is.” There are many more questions you might want to ask so as to satisfy yourself that the idea of “diagnosing and treating mental disorders” makes sense to you. Will your child’s provider be willing or able to answer your questions? See for yourself. Will the provider’s answers, if you get any, make sense to you or satisfy you? See for yourself.
Imagine asking your surgeon, “Why are you planning to cut me open?” and getting no answer. Or getting the answer, “Because it’s a surgical issue.” Or getting the answer, “Because you have a bio-psycho-social problem.” Or getting the answer, “It’s a statistical matter.” Or getting the answer, “Because of your symptom picture.” This one might impress you and you will need to educate yourself regarding the huge holes in the “symptom picture” method of “diagnosing mental disorders.” Or getting the answer, “Because of an abnormality.” This one might also impress you until you dig a little bit into what “normal” and “abnormal” seem to mean to mental health practitioners. Since the leap made by mental health professionals from observed behavior to a mental disorder diagnosis is a labeling leap and not a medical leap or a scientific leap, the answers they provide will likely cause you to shake your head. Make sure that the rationale for this whole business makes sense to you.
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Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.