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Wired magazine interviews Allen Frances, a retired Duke University psychiatry professor, and editor of the most recent edition [2000 – it’s currently being revised for a new edition] of the profoundly influential Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

Frances has Post-Diagnostic Regret. He regrets the way his edition of the DSM has contributed to what Gary Greenberg, the article’s author, calls “absurdly high rates of diagnosis—by DSM criteria, epidemiologists have noted, a staggering 30 percent of Americans are mentally ill in any given year.” Francis regrets

having remained silent when, in the 1980s, he watched the pharmaceutical industry [America’s Fraud Queen] insinuate itself into the [American Psychiatric Association’s] training programs. [The APA produces the DSM.] (Annual drug company contributions to those programs reached as much as $3 million before the organization decided, in 2008, to phase out industry-supported education.)

The DSM’s vague and proliferating diagnoses have tended to “[create] … mental illness[es] where there previously [were] none, giving drugmakers… new target[s] for their hard sell and doctors, most of whom see it as part of their job to write prescriptions, more reason to medicate.”

As Greenberg notes, “[F]or all their confident pronouncements, psychiatrists can’t rigorously differentiate illness from everyday suffering.”

After years of reading, thinking, and writing about the university on this blog, UD has concluded that no division of the modern American university has more potential to do harm to the social fabric than academic psychiatry. The most brutal sports program, the most cynical MBA program – these don’t begin to approach the power to harm that organized, respected, and, in some cases, morally compromised diagnosticians have.

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3 Responses to ““Frances thinks his manual inadvertently facilitated these epidemics—and, in the bargain, fostered an increasing tendency to chalk up life’s difficulties to mental illness and then treat them with psychiatric drugs.””

  1. dmf Says:

    this is because psychiatrists have the power to decide who is worthy/capable of the kind of “rational” behavior to qualify as a full citizen, and now we have them (well their cheaper psychologist/social worker/nurse minions), via epidemiology, in the public schools creating huge classes,no pun intended, of people who will never get a chance to fully participate in our civic life (not to mention being drugged to the gills with untested drugs in their developing brains). This, along with court mandated treatment for drug use and other ‘anti-social’ behaviors, are part of the development of an underclass of citizenry that not only suffers from the kinds of maladaptive/retarded socialization that mistakenly gets them labeled with ‘mental’ illnesses but also feeds the power bankrolls of Big Pharma and undercuts our awareness of suffering caused by social ills. Pardon the rant but this is a really serious and much under-reported problem.

  2. University Diaries » Another cheer for Allen Frances. Says:

    […] a recent post, I noted what I called his Post-Diagnostic Regret, his almost anguished reflection on his own implication in what another writer calls psychosprawl […]

  3. University Diaries » Another Case of Post-Diagnostic Regret… Says:

    […] this one from Canada. As with Allen Frances, so with just-retired University of Laval medical school professor Fernand Turcotte: … Fernand […]

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