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mental illness « Previous | |Next »
June 4, 2011

In The Epidemic of Mental Illness: Why? in the New York Review of Books Marcia Angell refers to the raging epidemic of mental illness in the US. We could say the same for mental illness in Australia in that about 20% of adult Australians, will experience a mental illness at some stage in their lives: and that many will live with more than one mental illness at a time, such as anxiety and depression, which commonly occur together.

Angell highlights:

the shift from “talk therapy” to drugs as the dominant mode of treatment coincides with the emergence over the past four decades of the theory that mental illness is caused primarily by chemical imbalances in the brain that can be corrected by specific drugs. That theory became broadly accepted, by the media and the public as well as by the medical profession, after Prozac came to market in 1987 and was intensively promoted as a corrective for a deficiency of serotonin in the brain.

This diagnosis--that mental illness is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain---has resulted in the pharmaceutical companies selling psychoactive drug through various forms of marketing, both legal and illegal, and what many people would describe as bribery—have come to determine what constitutes a mental illness and how the disorders should be diagnosed and treated.

He asks:

What is going on here? Is the prevalence of mental illness really that high and still climbing? Particularly if these disorders are biologically determined and not a result of environmental influences, is it plausible to suppose that such an increase is real? Or are we learning to recognize and diagnose mental disorders that were always there? On the other hand, are we simply expanding the criteria for mental illness so that nearly everyone has one? And what about the drugs that are now the mainstay of treatment? Do they work? If they do, shouldn’t we expect the prevalence of mental illness to be declining, not rising?

In his two part review of 3 recent books on mental illness Angell endeavours to answer these questions.

The first part of the article argues that psychoactive drugs are useless, or worse than useless because of their negative side effects. He then asks why are these drugs so widely prescribed by psychiatrists and regarded by the public and the profession as something akin to wonder drugs?

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 8:27 PM | | Comments (2)


Racked and stacked, chemically.
But as for prozac, must admit time for a disclosure of interest- am depressive and the first bastard that tries to hook my prozac off me had better have an SAS squad backing them up.

Maybe part of the answer is that the drugs allow people to get the personality they want in much the same way as cosmetic surgery lets them get the body they want. Friends complaining that you're no fun anymore? No worries, one of these every night will cheer you up and much better for you than alcohol! One of the kids being a handful? Here, use these pills and come back to see me if the problem persists.

It's just a foretaste of course of what we can expect in future. In 100 years people will find our culture quite incomprehensible. 'Hamlet'? Why on earth didn't his mom just change his medication for god's sake and avoid all that unpleasantness?