The American Psychological Association has officially designated traditional masculinity as a de facto mental illness. New APA guidelines specifically state that “stoicism” and other traits are “on the whole, harmful.” No reports yet on whether Marcus Aurelius is spinning in his grave. Apparently, instead of toughing out challenges, people are supposed to spend their lives whimpering to shrinks and getting appropriately drugged.
It’s too bad my old friend Thomas Szasz is not still around to wallop this nonsense. He was one of the most courageous and eloquent writers on psychology, psychiatry, and many other issues.
This hokum has been building up for a long time. Here’s a piece I wrote in 1986 when the American Psychiatry Association was hustling to vastly expand the definition of mental illness. I would tweak a few of the lines if I was writing it today. On the other hand, the vast increase in the number of Americans getting drugged to deal with life is astounding. There was no evidence on the long-term effects of relying on such drugs at the time the FDA approved them.
Pure Madness from Psychiatrists, Detroit News, June 5, 1986
by James Bovard
The American Psychiatric Association recently met in Washington, D.C., to concoct some new mental illnesses. The meeting was a big success – there was a booming market for freshly brewed psychoses. But If the APA succeeds in adding millions more to the legions of officially crazy, it could be bad news for all Americans.
The first of 1986’s new “mental illness” is “premenstrual dysphoric disorder.” The APA says symptoms of this “mental illness” include “irritability,” “marked fatigue,” and “negative evaluation of self.” According to the APA’s definition, a third of all women go crazy once a month.
The second newly ordained mental illness is “self-defeating personality type,” previously known as common or garden-variety masochism. The symptoms for this grade disorder include, “complaints, directly or indirectly, about being unappreciated,” “repeatedly turns down opportunities for pleasure,” and “remains in relationships in which others… take advantage of him or her.” Bring on the Valium!
The third “discovery” is a humdinger – guaranteed to raise the APA’s popularity with trial lawyers.
The APA has tentatively decided that anyone who persistently fantasizes about or actively forces a non-consenting person to have sex suffers from “paraphilic rapism.” In other words, a person would have to be nuts to rape somebody. As one protester at the APA’s meeting declared, “Sexual assault is a crime – not a mental disorder.” The Committee of Women of the APA said the new category would “provide an instant insanity plea for anyone charged with rape.”
The redefinition of rape epitomizes psychiatry’s view of crime: no one is responsible for anything and psychiatrists should have supervision over everything. The big hero at the APA’s convention was Jack Hinckley, father of John Hinckley, who announced he was launching a campaign to increase public support for psychiatry. (His son was seeing a psychiatrist before he shot President Reagan, but APA members would rather not talk about that.) The psychiatrist introducing Hinckley, Sr., spoke movingly about the “tragedy that struck the Hinckley family” – with no thought of a nation that was almost robbed of its elected leader.
The APA’s new mental illnesses will provide shrinks with lucrative new court “expert witness” opportunities. One woman already successfully used premenstrual syndrome as an “insanity” defense for murdering her husband, and PMS is now being used as a defense in child abuse cases. This is progress?
Many psychiatrists seem to view the human mind largely as a means to pad their pockets. Though doctors decided more than a hundred years ago that bleeding per se was not good for the human body, psychiatrists still seem to feel that financially bleeding a patient is good for his mind.
If shrinks only cleaned out people’s wallets, then they would be no more harmful than your average politician. But psychiatrists nowadays routinely rely on mind-numbering drugs and mind-shattering electric shock treatments. Some mental patients are developing Parkinson’s disease symptoms as a result of years of heavy medication. Electric shock “therapy” – aside from being a terrifying experience – sometimes causes permanent memory loss, thus making it harder for a patient to handle reality.
If shrinks can succeed in defining masochism as a mental illness, then it is only a matter of time until they add hay fever, the Monday blahs, and voting Republican to the list. And with the cost of electricity these days, it would be a shame to waste all those electric shocks on people who might not really need them.
We have new mental illnesses not because of new breakthroughs in understanding the mind, but because psychiatrists want more money and more power over the rest of us. Shrinks generally have a poor batting average for curing known mental problems – but that has not stopped them from creating new “illnesses” that supposedly they alone can treat.
A con artist with an M.D. is still a con artist. The human mind was not created to provide full employment for psychiatrists.
Tagline: James Bovard’s therapist thought writing this column would do him some good.