Sunday, February 28, 2010

Clouds and Silverlinings

Two links.

  1. Jessica Hamzelou in New Scientist on the dark side of happiness.

  2. Jonah Lehrer in NYTimes on the bright side of depression.

On a related note, Louis Menand has a great article on Can Psychiatry Be A Science. Here's a section on the criticism (from within the profession of psychiatry itself) that a lot of conditions, which arise as a natural expected response to nasty events, are being labelled using scary terms and 'treated':

Greenberg is repeating a common criticism of contemporary psychiatry, which is that the profession is creating ever more expansive criteria for mental illness that end up labelling as sick people who are just different -— a phenomenon that has consequences for the insurance system, the justice system, the administration of social welfare, and the cost of health care.

Jerome Wakefield, a professor of social work at New York University, has been calling out the D.S.M. on this issue for a number of years. In “The Loss of Sadness” (2007), Wakefield and Allan Horwitz, a sociologist at Rutgers, argue that the increase in the number of people who are given a diagnosis of depression suggests that what has changed is not the number of people who are clinically depressed but the definition of depression, which has been defined in a way that includes normal sadness. In the case of a patient who exhibits the required number of symptoms, the D.S.M. specifies only one exception to a diagnosis of depression: bereavement. But, Wakefield and Horwitz point out, there are many other life problems for which intense sadness is a natural response—being laid off, for example. There is nothing in the D.S.M. to prevent a physician from labelling someone who is living through one of these problems mentally disordered.