My wife, who is a master’s level professional counselor, just brought to my attention an interview in the current issue of The SUN magazine by Arnie Cooper of Christopher Lane, “Side Effects May Include – On What’s Wrong With Modern Psychiatry.” In the interview, Lane, an English professor specializing in Victorian literature and intellectual history, exposes the hard facts about how mental “diseases” are reportedly multiplying. Apparently new disorders are being added to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) every year.
In his tenacious endeavor to find answers as to why so many of his own students were on anti-anxiety and anti-depressant drugs, and as to the emergence in 1980 of dozens of new mental disorders in the third edition of the DSM — such “curious-sounding” diagnoses as “‘social phobia'” and “‘avoidance personality disorder'” — and especially as to “how and why those new disorders had been approved for inclusion [in the DSM] and whether they were really bona fide illnesses,” Lane found, to his dismay but not surprise, an active involvement of Pharmacia & Upjohn, the drug company who makes the anti-anxiety drug Xanax, “especially in the promotion of ‘panic disorder.'” He also found evidence of sloppy research and “dismissal of nonmedical approaches to psychiatric problems, and a degree of inventiveness with terms and symptoms that struck him as playing fast and loose with the facts.”
When asked “Are we getting sicker, or is something else at play?” Lane’s answer reminded me of the phenomenal growth in size of the Physicians Desk Reference (PDR) over the last 50 years I’ve been in practice. I used to be able to hold the book in one hand and turn the pages with the other. Now, I have to place it on a table or desk to even handle it. It grew in thickness from about two inches to six, and much of that growth is due to the increase in new drugs that treat the side effects of drugs, what are called “iatrogenic (doctor-caused) diseases.” Are we getting sicker or have we become a drug-addicted and drug-damaged society? Lane’s answer is worth excepting from the interview:
The way psychiatrists define mental illness has itself changed radically. The first two editions of the DSM focused on observable traits and behaviors in patients, which were often described as “reactions” to particular incidents or stressors. When the third edition came out in 1980, it defined virtually everything as a “disorder,” which connotes an innate, lifelong malfunctioning of the brain rather than a moment of psychological distress that might be due to a brief change in circumstance. This new method of defining mental disease has completely transformed the way mental-health professionals and the general public think about it.
When asked again if it is possible that we are in fact getting sicker, he responded with alarming words about how the industry is viewing our children:
I think it’s difficult to gauge that accurately. If you follow the APA’s line [American Psychiatric Association], then most definitely we’re seeing epidemic rates of social anxiety disorder and bipolar disorder, with the latter expanding by an eye-popping 4,000 percent. But how did that massive increase come about? It’s due almost entirely to the fact that the DSM-IV formalized bipolar as a mental disorder among children. Before that, bipolar disorder was understood to be exclusively an adult phenomenon. Psychiatrists like to revise everything backward, to rewrite the past in terms of their current terminology. Doing so makes their new terminology seem natural, even inevitable. There are more than a hundred more mental disorders in the DSM today than we had in 1968, including incredible new ones such as “sibling-relational problem” and even “partner-relational problem.” But I’m not convinced that the introduction of new illnesses means that more people are actually sicker.
Lane then goes on to say this about the quality of the APA’s trials in determining the criteria for mental illness:
I have extensively researched the APA archives and can attest that their judgments were often flimsy and their rationale for including new disorders questionable, based as they were on anecdotal evidence, ambiguous clinical research, and highly inconclusive trials. One of the consultants for the DSM-III, Theodore Millon, admitted to The New Yorker in 2005 that there was little systemic research; much of it, he said, was inconsistent and hodgepodge. He was an active participant on the DSM committee.
Lane’s research seeded and spurred the authoring of his book in 2007, Shyness: How Normal Behavior Became a Sickness, in which he shares his observations of the evolution of the understanding of mental disorders which gradually began to include normal reactions to one’s environment and upbringing. Such normal behavior began to be seen as “innate conditions of brain chemistry, resulting from problematic levels of neurotransmitters, especially serotonin.” Under the expanded guidelines of the DSM, anyone who is shy stands the risk of being diagnosed as mentally ill.
GOOD NEWS TO THE DRUG INDUSTRY
“The new disorders were obviously music to the ears of drug companies,” he says, “insofar as they massively increased the market for their products, which the media greeted with incredible enthusiasm.” Of course the media would be enthused. In 2000 alone GlaxoSmithKline spent $92 million on direct-to-consumer advertising on a single drug, Paxil, a drug that has so many side effects and such dubious results that the company seriously considered shelving it only to turn around and make a blockbuster out of it with an annual revenue surpassing $1 billion. As Lane points out, they have to create and sell the disease to the public before they sell the drug. The expectation is that we will self-diagnose and hurry to our local pharmacy to buy their new product.
Are we going to continue allowing the drug industry to invent diseases and determine what behaviors and symptoms are to be included in the DSM as illnesses based on what new drugs they’ve developed that need a disease to treat and a shelf to fill in the drugstore?
“EMOTIONAL BLUNTING” A SIDE EFFECT
One of the side effects of all this massive consumption of antidepressants and antipsychotic drugs is described as “emotional blunting,” a widely noted and studied phenomenon where people on these drugs may show little if any strong emotion in the face of catastrophes and environmental crises, such as the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, or sensitive enough moral and ethical judgement that allowed space for risky bank practices and real estate speculation. Lane decries the lack of resistance on the part of Americans to Bush’s $4 trillion illegal and ill justified Iraq war, an economic setback that conservatives among us appear to have conveniently forgotten as they blame our present economic crisis on our Democratic President. Are we as a nation over-drugged to the point of emotional numbness where we can’t think clearly or feel compassion and consideration anymore?
IS THERE A RISK TO PUBLIC HEALTH? TO OUR CHILDREN?
Traces of Lithium are showing up in municipal drinking water, not to mention the homeopathic coding of our drinking water by the mere presence of these traces of antidepressants, antibiotics and other prescription drugs in the water. Mass medication is taking place without public awareness, much less outcry. There’s no public outcry either against the forced drugging of our children with amphetamines (Adderall and Ritalin – read my blog on this) instead of giving them a healthier alternative to sugar and caffeine laden soft drinks and refined carbohydrate snacks, although there is finally some movement in that direction by our school system.
Lane says that undergraduates are taking “neuroenhancers” . . . in large numbers . . . apparently not recognizing the difference between caffeine and what is essentially refined amphetamines. To the extent that real learning and deep efforts in creativity are being replaced by adjustments in brain chemistry — potentially involving tens of thousands of students across the country — I would consider that a risk to public health, to say nothing of a phenomenon that should raise concerns about academic integrity and cheating
A CHANGE IN PERCEPTION AND CONSCIOUSNESS NEEDED
I’ve cited this interview as an example in the healthcare industry of how the field of professional medical providers will gladly accommodate our demand for drugs to alleviate our pain, be it physical pain or mental anxiety and depression. That demand arises largely out of the way we perceive ourselves, our pain and mental anxiety, and the state of consciousness in which we form our perceptions, most of which are based on beliefs we’ve held since childhood.
An example that readily comes to mind is the automatic assumption, when pain arises, that something is wrong and a doctor is needed to tell us what’s wrong and give us something for the pain, preferable find and correct the cause of the pain so that we won’t need the pain killer — which is what I do as a holistic physician and people respond favorably to that kind of rationale.
NOTHING IS WRONG! EVERYTHING MATTERS!
My approach to pain and illness is that nothing is wrong but the symptoms do matter. The symptoms of pain and anxiety are important messages from the body that a change is needed in the way I’m living life. They matter, in other words, and we are not wise in our rush to turn off the symptoms with drugs, or high potency vitamins and herbs, for that matter, and thereby miss the message. For unless the message is properly perceived and duly heeded, the symptoms will return, only next time louder and more attention grabbing, for which the doctor will prescribe yet stronger medicine and/or more invasive procedures. So, while dealing with the pain for relief, let’s discover what the pain alarm is about so we can address the underlying cause.
A typical example of what I’m saying occurs in my practice on a regular basis. The patient presents with a chronic back pain for which various doctors, including chiropractors, were consulted and treatments rendered with no lasting results. Being a chiropractor, I naturally look for a structural problem, such as a hip or spinal vertebra out of alignment irritating a nerve root. But that’s already been done, so I listen more deeply and broaden my perception while tracing the symptoms back to uncover a deeper and perhaps more obscure and subtle cause. Invariably, upon muscle testing and a comprehensive investigation into the patient’s case history and life style habits, a bladder infection more often than not reveals itself. So we treat the bladder infection for a period of time with herbs and nutritional protocols and the chronic back pain goes away for good.
Another example is the chronic neck ache, the crick in the neck that just won’t go away, even with chiropractic adjustments. So we listen and look deeper for less obvious causes and invariably a lymphatic congestion reveals itself as the cause, resulting in lymph node swelling and tenderness in the neck So, we treat the lymphatics with herbs and homeopathic solutions and the crick in the neck, as well as the recurring or lingering headache, clear up. An adjustment wasn’t needed after all . . . nor muscle relaxers.
Often a stiff neck is simply a physiological response to emotional stress, the body asking for deeper issues to be dealt with and resolved. Here is where true counseling is needed. I offer BioEnergetic Synchronization Technique (BEST) as a non-invasive treatment for emotional and mental stress issues. Basically it’s a way of desensitizing emotional “buttons” that are being pushed by triggers in one’s environment and social setting.
We will continue with this theme next blog post with a consideration of some alternative approaches to depression and mental illness, as well as a look at how we can go about changing our perception and consciousness around health issues in general. Until then, consider a drug-free life style.
To your health and healing,
Dr. Tony Palombo
Visit me on the Web at www.healingandattunementl.com and visit my Healing Tones blog for inspirational reading. We are considering the significance of the Pineal Gland and Galactic Orientation as we travel through space on our planet.
Reference: The SUN, March 2012 – Issue 435
I deeply appreciate the way you encourage another way of thinking about health issues (and have benefitted from it for the past 21 years!) Keep up the good work.
Thank you, sweetheart . . . it’s great having you to share the journey with.