x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Psychiatry gone mad

There is surely something chilling about the drive to narrow down "normal" behaviour, and to urge almost everyone to take a pill.

Do you suffer from "mixed anxiety depressive disorder"? How about "minor neurocognitive disorder"?

Everybody, we dare say, occasionally has reason to feel a little worried and sad. And older people often have what they jokingly call "senior moments". But these two conditions, which most people would surely consider normal, may soon be officially recognised as distinct mental illnesses.

After years of study, US experts are about to add a whole range of such conditions to DSM-5, the new edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, a directory of conditions used by mental-health professionals around the world.

Critics claim the eagerness to call additional conditions "mental illness" is fuelled by the pharmaceutical industry, eager to get more people popping pills for more conditions. Others see an "obsession with diagnosis" that is leaving no room in life for old-fashioned quirkiness.

To be sure, some major changes proposed for DSM-5 are welcomed by all, as genuine, non-controversial advances in mental-health treatment.

But there is surely something chilling about the drive to narrow down "normal" behaviour, and to urge almost everyone to take a pill.