Patties, Pollutants, and Paxil – Part II
So I’ve been hanging out at the government run Health and Wellness Centres lately.
Not for any sort of legitimate reason, mind you, I just lounge in the waiting area so-as to upset the squares and remind them of what a Free Man looks like. Anyway I was reading The Party Line, a free magazine for the Canadian Mental Health Association, when I came across the following quotes:
The WHO ranks mental disorders as the number one disability claim in Canada, with depression being the most common. These disability claims have been on the rise for the last 10 years… “While we don’t have the data to say why, we know that most people are suffering from mental health problems and going off work because of it.”
Alberta’s Institute of Health Economics found Canada lags behind most developed countries in the amount of money it spends treating mental illness… Some hope lies with the creation of the Canadian Mental Health Comission in 2007, charged with improving and standardizing care for Canadians dealing with mental illness…
Wonderful. “We don’t know what’s causing the problem, we don’t even really know what the problem is, but we know for a fact that throwing money at it is the solution.” Here’s a free tip: more studies aren’t going to tell you what’s happening. To understand that you need to look at your methodology. And as for more funding, dollars to donuts says that’ll only cause the levels to rise even faster.
The problem with Psychology is that there’s too much vagueness, too much room for variation. Let’s take ADHD. The criteria for Diagnosis are:
Six or more of the following symptoms of inattention have persisted for at least six months to a degree that is maladaptive and inconsistent with the developmental level:
often fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, work, or other activities
often has difficulty sustaining attention in tasks or play activities
- often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly
- often does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish schoolwork, chores, or duties in the workplace (not due to oppositional behaviour or failure of comprehension)
- often has difficulty organizing tasks and activities
- often avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to engage in tasks that require sustained mental effort (such as schoolwork or homework)
- often loses things necessary for tasks or activites at school or at home (e.g. toys, pencils, books, assignments)
- is often easily distracted by extraneous stimuli
- if often forgetful in daily activities
**Actually, it’s a little more complex, but don’t worry about that right now.**
The first problem is obvious. ‘Often’ isn’t really a thing. It isn’t really a criteria. Heinlein once said “Anything that can’t be expressed in numbers is just an opinion.” You can just tell that he would have loved these guys.
But at least it gives us some structure, right? A language we can use to discuss these things, subjective though they may be. ‘Bipolar’ might be more a question of degree, rather than a black-or-white quality, but when we can isolate different conditions such as Depression, Schizophrenia, Narcissism, and ADHD from, say, Tourette’s –
- Both multiple motor and one or more vocal tics have been present at some time during the illness, although not necessarily concurrently. (A tic is a sudden, rapid, recurrent, nonrhythmic, stereotyped motor movement or vocalization.)
- The tics occur many times a day (usually in bouts) nearly every day or intermittently throughout a period of more than 1 year, and during this period there was never a tic-free period of more than 3 consecutive months.
- The disturbance causes marked distress or significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.
- The onset is before age 18 years.
- The disturbance is not due to the direct physiological effects of a substance (e.g., stimulants) or a general medical condition (e.g., Huntington’s disease or postviral encephalitis).
Well goddamn. Guess they’re not really all that distinct, are they?
Part of the problem is that Psychology is a ‘high level’ science. Unlike Physic or Chemistry – or even Neurology – Psychology deals with complex patterns occurring in variable environments. Figuring out a good hypothesis is bad enough, trying to test it is going to be even worse. But just because something’s hard, doesn’t mean you get to fall back on Opinion. Meteorology’s hard too, but when a Meteorologist calls something a Cumulus cloud, he’s not only referring to a distinct and actual phenomenon – he’s also making predictions.
Yeah, we all like to complain about the weather forecast, but what those guys do is still pretty phenomenal [science pun]. Sure as hell beats the pants off of any tribal Shaman’s guess. And as if that’s not enough, they’re humble enough to assign percentages to their predictions – a tacit admission that they could be wrong.
The Psychologist, on the other hand, makes statements that are both arrogantly certain and uselessly vague – he definitely has this disorder, and he’ll probably reoffend – while at the same time refusing to offer an empirical basis for these claims.
Q: What’s the difference between the DSM IV and the DSM I?
A: The former has enough disorders to cover everybody, while the latter existed during an era when classifying Homosexuality as a disorder was socially acceptable. (What, you thought they performed an experiment to prove it wasn’t?)
Q: What’s the difference between the DSM IV and Freud?
And as if the Psychologists weren’t bad enough, you’ve got the meat fuckers Psychiatrists riding in on their coattails, shoving snake oil and placebos down the mouths of the faithful, a shiny new colour for every shiny new disorder. I’m not going to go into tons of detail here, since I usually try and avoid legal drugs, but feel free to check out The Last Psychiatrist‘s thoughts on the matter (yes Corman, I know you hate him, and I agree that he needs to stop saying that everything’s Narcissism, but when it comes to drugs he knows his shit).
To be clear, I’m not saying anything against guys like Dr. Rob (who is awesome) – any Brain Doctor with an ounce of smarts and a sliver of soul will figure out how to counsel people at some point… but then, so will Priests, and so will Astrologers.
You know, if they kept their pseudo-science out in the fringe I’d tolerate it, same as palm readers, or people who talk about ‘energy’. But these folks are vying to be our new Lords and Masters, deciding who’s fit and who isn’t to live with the rest of us lab rats, recreating the Rights of Man in their own image.
So what’re you supposed to do if your brain doesn’t work? Personally I just hacked mine, turned off all the emotional dip-swithes aside from “Angry” and “Hungry”.. but if you don’t feel like doing that, there’s another option. Ironically enough, the meat fuckers did manage to create a drug that worked, one with a thoroughly proven track record of improving quality of life, which has no long-term side-effects when used correctly… and that was the problem. It worked. Didn’t last 20 years before they banned it.
So do what you can, ask around, and try and find yourselves some LSD.
Vaya con Dios, folks.