Thursday, June 22, 2006

The Mental Health Profession and Social Norms (Does Masturbation Cause Insanity?):

The issue of homosexuality and mental disorders is once again timely because of the recent discovery that the military still classifies homosexuality as such, while all of the professional organizations no longer do.

A representative from one of the professional organizations wrote a letter of reprimand to the military for its faulty science. On this matter, the mental health industry is right; homosexuality is not a mental disorder. Yet, as I noted in this past post, the profession is still abusing its position of authority and wrongly trying to "medicalize" social norms which are issues of public morality, not public health.

Indeed, those who believe that the mental health profession was the epitome of good science and until things got politicized in the 60s and 70s are laughably, sadly and utterly mistaken. See this article from WorldNutDaily on the matter which spreads the myth that homosexuality was "delisted" from the DSM for political, not scientific reasons. No. Homosexuality was first put on the DSM some time in the 50s for political reasons. Since there was no good scientific reason for it to remain on the list, it was properly delisted in 1973.

We must keep in mind that mental disorders are health, not moral issues. Mental disorders are at their heart socially neutral conditions, akin to having high cholesterol or diabetes. Plenty of people, through no fault of their own, struggle and live with things like depression, generalized anxiety, social anxiety, panic attacks, bipolar, and this says nothing, absolutely nothing about their moral character. Indeed, such disorders are granted bona fide civil rights status under the Americans with Disabilities Act and state and local disabilities legislation. And indeed some of the greatest figures in history from Lincoln to Madison, to Jefferson and many others had these mental disorders.

But anyway, let me reveal some of the original mischief of the psychiatric profession. In finding out how bad their behavior was (you'll see how bad in a second), I was tempted to endorse the Thomas Szasz/Michel Foucault theory that mental disorders simply do not exist, they are just a pathetic attempt to medicalize social issues.

But rather, through my own personal experience and knowledge, I've concluded that mental disorders do indeed exist, but that they have nothing properly to do with social norms, that these conditions are purely health issues, and having such is akin to having, again a physical impairment. Classic disorders including things like depression and anxiety. And the psychiatric profession can treat such effectively. However, when they get into the business of morality and medicalizing social issues, they invariably go wrong.

While issues like right and wrong, ethics and sin have been around practically forever, issues of "mental disorders" are of relatively recent formulation, beginning sometime in the 19th Century. As Ronald Hamowy notes in this absolutely must read article cataloguing the abuses of the mental health profession since day one, the profession has always struggled with the problem of attempting to medicalize some type of conventional morality, with some of the most embarrassing results.

How absurd and embarrassing? I kid you not, the same folks who first argued that homosexuality was a mental disorder also believed that masturbation causes insanity. There's much more. Read the article.

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