Psychiatry – A recent article entitled “The shady business of mental illness: how the consumption of psychotropic drugs in the US has skyrocketed (El turbio negocio de las enfermedades mentales: así se disparó el consumo de psicofármacos en EEUU)” published in EL MUNDO by Daniel Arjona on 1 September 2023, presents a critique of the evolution of the diagnosis and treatment of mental illnesses in the United States over the last few decades, something that not only the Scientologists have been doing, but in fact, this is being investigated and exposed more and more by journalists, medical doctors, human rights activists and even psychiatrists; some would blame it on the Citizens Commission on Human Rights, for having dared to speak their mouth very aggressively (some say), but even a court said that their words and exposées are protected by the law.
Anyway, back to the article, the author highlights the growing prescription of psychotropic drugs and questions the relationship between psychiatry and pharmaceutical companies (some others speak of a mixture of psychiatry and pharmacocrazy). The following is an analysis of the article, citing relevant parts and providing reasoning.
Psychiatry and Changes in the Definition of Depression
The article starts by bringing attention to a shift in how depression was defined by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) back in 1980. This change allowed for the diagnosis of depression based on symptoms observed over a two-week period. As a result, there was an increase in the identification of depression and a rise in the prescription of medications like Xanax. The author considers this change as a point to analyze further.
The Role of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM)
The article emphasizes the significance of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) in categorizing illnesses and its influence on the growing use of psychotropic drugs. It mentions a book titled “Psychiatry under the influence” authored by Robert Whitaker and Lisa Cosgrove, which critically examines the relationship between psychiatry and the pharmaceutical industry. According to the author, this book sparked a debate, within the medical community.
Diagnostic Inflation and Medicalisation
The article argues that diagnostic criteria for psychiatric illnesses have been expanded in ways that increased the number of people diagnosed, leading to increased medicalisation of psychological and emotional problems. It also points out that modern psychiatry tends to focus more on biological treatments than on psychosocial and economic factors.
The Case of ADHD
The article discusses how the market for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) was built in the United States, noting that it was not a creation of the pharmaceutical industry, but of organised psychiatry. DSM-III and DSM-IV provided the diagnostic framework, and academic psychiatrists contributed to more ADHD diagnoses and medication prescriptions.
Critique of Global Medicalisation
The article presents expert opinion questioning the scientific basis of many categories of mental illness and the relationship between these and pharmacological treatments. It is mentioned that the categorisation of emotional struggles as psychiatric disorders is an epistemologically problematic process and that the causes of these conditions are more complex than simple chemical imbalances.
Perspectives for Change
The article ends with a cautiously optimistic perspective on the possibility of challenging and reforming the system of diagnosis and treatment of mental illness. It mentions that, even with the obstacles, younger psychiatrists are showing a greater openness to listening to data that challenges the dominant narrative.
In essence, the article by Daniel Arjona brings attention to the issues and objections regarding the connection between psychiatry, pharmaceutical companies and the medicalization of illness in the United States (something that is already happening in Europe at a worrisome speed). By presenting evidence and expert viewpoints the writer offers a thought-provoking standpoint that raises significant inquiries about current psychiatric methods and their impact, on society.