This thread is inspired by a friend of mine we'll refer to here as "Dee."
Currently, I'm in a graduate studies program for psychological counseling and diagnosis. As such, I am largely in defense of my field when these types of disagreements come up. I do agree with Szasz in a lot of ways; notably, his arguments about labeling and stigmatism as it is applied to the patients, or what he often calls the victims, of psychology and psychiatry. Dee takes my defense of what I think I rightly consider a valid science as a bias against, most specifically, the CCHR (Citizen's Commission on Human Rights, an organization founded by Szasz and the Church of Scientology in the late 60's) and dissenters. I argue that the CCHR is a paranoid, fearmongering organization that spends its time making shit up more than anything else, blaming all celebrity suicides on the evil psychiatric industry. I'm correct.
CCHR video about the DSM.
Remember, despite their claims, they are more or less a part of the CoS.
Despite his paranoia and conspiracy theories, I think there is some logical root to Dee's problem. Dee is Canadian, and is apparently a part, or maybe even a leader of, a group dedicated to fighting what they perceive as legalized abuse and abduction on the part of the CAS
. He claims to have convincing evidence of their abuses. Now, to be clear, I'm not nearly versed enough in Canadian law or anything like that to discuss this here, but it's far from beyond the realm of possibility that the CAS operates like the mismanaged, underfunded and understaffed DFACS in the US. If the problems in my version of the child protection agencies are any indicator, it is, in fact, very likely. But Dee takes it a step further and applies a conspiracy theory about profiting off of overmedication and such things. Again, I don't necessarily doubt, but I'm also unexposed to his evidence as of yet. He may very well be astute, and is fighting the good fight.
But Dee has taken it a step further from there and lays a whole slew of allegations and criticism against the entire mental health profession, believing that diagnosis is impossible and fabricated, and that it's all a massive conspiracy (buzz word of the day, it seems) to, once again, profit off of lies to patients and their misery, primarily through the use of psychopharmacotherapy, especially with regards to children and ADD/ADHD treatment. Some of these criticisms aren't entirely invalid, given that I've personally known lazy professionals that overmedicate and stuff in as many patients as they can in a day to make a buck without sufficiently treating them. However, I've also seen behavioral treatment - and the clinic I work for uses this program called Brain Games for ADD patients, often along with medication - that works wonders, as well as talk therapy and a variety of other methods.
I think part of the problem is that there's a faulty perception of overdiagnosis and overmedication that's rampant to the lay public because of ignorance. A hyper kid doesn't have ADHD. A hyper kid with a variety of symptoms has ADHD, but the general public doesn't actually know what those symptoms are, and if they do, they certainly don't know how to interpret or identify them appropriately. Dee, predictably, argues that ADD and ADHD, and others like autism and Asperger's, are completely fabricated. Szasz does as well.
Before I keep rambling, let me spell out exactly what I'm concerd with in regards to this thread in a quick TL;DR
1. Can a psychiatric diagnosis be real at all? Is there any validity to the whole thing? Does it extend in purpose beyond Szasz's accusation that it's just a label? My answer is yes, of course.
2. Are the conspiracy theories valid? My answer is, in a nutshell, that there may be some measure of validity to the suspicion of such behaviors and policies, but that it's a problem with all medicine that's not exclusive to psychiatry, and that it's a problem that can be remedied by reform, transperency, and effective oversight.
3. What's your opinion on psychiatric pharmaceuticals? My opinion is that it's helpful and effective, but is most effective when paired well with other forms of behavioral or talk therapy, and also that is certainly not a panacea for all that ails your brain. My opinion is substantiated by numerous studies.
4. Are our children being overmedicated and drugged into near-comatose states by the evil psychiatric industry in an effort to make a quick buck? I think that conspiracy theories are more harmful than helpful, and that while there are problems, it's not nearly as far-reaching as Dee and others would have you believe.