DSM and Disability

Every society in every generation makes errors.  Some of the errors are minor.  Some are major.  One of the great errors of the 20th century was this:  we accepted the spurious notion that a wide range of life’s problems were in fact illnesses.  This spurious notion was initiated with good intentions – to provide shelter and humanitarian care for a relatively small number of individuals whose plight was truly dreadful.  But then the concept of mental illness took off, fuelled largely by the efforts of psychiatrists to legitimize their status as “real” doctors.

And then came the drug companies, who formed an alliance with the psychiatrists.  These mutually enchanted partners have been dancing heel-to-toe ever since, accumulating wealth and power to the great detriment of individuals and society.

Once it was firmly established that a wide range of ordinary problems of living were “really” diseases, it was a relatively easy step to conclude that individuals manifesting these problems might qualify for disability benefits under programs established by various governments.  In the United States the government entity involved is the Social Security Administration, and at the present time the following “diagnostic” categories are grounds for a disability determination.

Organic mental disorders

Schizophrenic, paranoid, and other psychotic disorders

Affective disorders

Mental retardation and autism

Anxiety related disorders

Somatoform disorders

Personality disorders

Substance addiction disorders

Now it needs to be acknowledged that some of the problems embraced in the above list are genuine medical problems and are definitely disabling.  These include:  serious brain damage and mental retardation.  But the vast majority of the so-called diagnoses listed are not genuine illnesses in any meaningful sense of the word.  They are problems of living.  They are problems of living that have been artificially medicalized for the benefit of psychiatrists and their allies the pharmaceutical companies.  These spurious “diagnoses” include:  schizophrenia, depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders (including post-traumatic stress disorder), substance addiction, etc.. All of these problems are remediable, but under the bio-psychiatric system of pseudo-care, the individuals concerned receive little or nothing in the way of genuine help – in fact, they receive little more than a steady supply of mood-altering drugs.

Paying disability benefits to these individuals is an insult to the genuinely disabled people who have real medical problems which restrict so severely their ability to function.

In addition, the payment of disability benefits to the so-called mentally ill is a great disincentive for these individuals to try to resolve their problems and learn functional ways of living.

All of the “symptoms” of the so-called mental illnesses can be fabricated.  A diagnosis of schizophrenia, for instance, is based entirely on what the individual says and does during an examination interview.  There is no lab or clinical test for schizophrenia.  Occasionally an examiner may question family members, but the “diagnosis” decision rests on the individual’s self-report.  That’s how the system works.  If you don’t mind the stigma of being considered “crazy,” you too can acquire a diagnosis, and with a little help from the mental health services, you can be awarded disability status and a modest monthly income.

And it doesn’t end there.  If you go to college, you may qualify for a variety of academic accommodations.  Michael Rose, PhD, writing in the July/August 2010 issue of the National Psychologist says:

“With the proper documentation, students may qualify for a wide range of learning aids, such as extra time to take tests, use of a private room for tests, word banks, use of a word processor with spell check and help from a proofreader.  A specific documented disability, typically made within the past three years, has been the basis for approved accommodations at most institutions of higher learning.

Besides qualifying for extra help that will likely improve grades, students may qualify for a range of vocational rehabilitation services (paid tuition, books, dormitory costs, computers) that are not dependent on family or individual income.” (pg 18)

I cannot think of a better way of trapping people in a dysfunctional state than providing them with multiple rewards and benefits contingent on their continued dysfunctionality.  As I have noted elsewhere:  Is this a great country or what?

Back in the 1990’s there was a great push to get people off the welfare rolls.  It is an open secret that Social Services departments in many areas were encouraging their welfare clients to enroll at the mental health center and establish a “diagnosis” so that they could then apply for a disability determination from Social Security.

I could never prove this, but I know of a number of parents who were actively coaching their children in attention-deficit and other kinds of dysfunctional behavior so that the child would qualify for a Social Security income.  It’s a simple fact in America today that if you teach your child to misbehave seriously from an early age, and take him regularly to the mental health center for “help,” you stand an excellent chance of having him qualify for a Social Security income.  I have known families with more than one child receiving Social Security “disability” payments for no other reason than chronic misbehavior and lack of discipline.

I discussed the spurious nature of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity disorder in an earlier post, but I’m repeating the diagnosis “symptoms” below for convenience.

The APA’s eighteen criteria for this fictitious illness are:

Inattention

a)      often fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, work, or other activities
b)      often has difficulty sustaining attention in tasks or play activities
c)      often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly
d)     often does not follow through on instructions, and fails to finish schoolwork, chores, or duties in the workplace (not due to oppositional behavior or failure to understand instructions)
e)      often has difficulty organizing tasks and activities
f)       often avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to engage in tasks that require sustained mental effort (such as schoolwork or homework)
g)      often loses things necessary for tasks or activities (e.g., toys, school assignments, pencils, books, or tools)
h)      is often easily distracted by extraneous stimuli
i)        is often forgetful in daily activities

Hyperactivity/Impulsivity

a)      often fidgets with hands or feet, or squirms in seat
b)      often leaves seat in classroom or in other situations in which remaining seated is expected
c)      often runs about or climbs excessively in situations in which it is inappropriate (in adolescents or adults may be limited to subjective feelings of restlessness)
d)     often has difficulty playing or engaging in leisure activities quietly
e)      is often “on the go” or often acts as if “driven by a motor”
f)       often talks excessively
g)      often blurts out answers before questions have been completed
h)      often has difficulty awaiting turn
i)        often interrupts or intrudes on others (e.g., butts into conversations or games)

I have only one question for my readers.  How hard would it be to train a child to function in this way?

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