Some Thoughts on the DSM V and the Sin of Psychiatric Medicine

Christopher J Munson Jr

I feel a need to preface something here. I am not a medical doctor. I have not attended school and studied or certified myself in the practice of diagnosing mental health disorders. I have studied Zen, Jungian Psychology, Shamanism, bodywork, and am bilingual. With that said, I have some words that need saying. I am doubtful that the diagnosis of labels regarding a humans behavior is helpful in when we see things at large. It is fascinating to me; the power words play in constructing and obscuring our realities.

When I talk about labels and perspective and the psyche. I am referring to labels as the verbal-representative feature that words carry. In the same way that a screen captures the light of a projector to illuminate an image, words construct a similar effect. They construct the barriers to the screen, the light leaving the lens, the cable powering the bulb, the images flashing across the screen, the material, the colors—in our minds. Furthering, a stop sign becomes a stop sign by calling it a stop sign thus it is a stop sign! The perspective we take I image to be how we relate to the phenomena. It encapsulates the steps we take to reconstruct the canvas, change the picture, or shut off the projector entirely. Most of the time, stop signs serve their purpose and cars stop thus the pattern the label sets out to illuminate is achieved. But not all the time. People miss stop signs from time to time and sometimes create accidents, or opportunities for auto shops to stay in business. The psyche is then the culmination of this process: the dynamics dancing between labels and perspective and everything else that might be at play. There is a lot of traffic in the city.

So, let’s take a look at behavior and patterns of existence, specifically those found in the DSM V. The labels are not cut and dry. Personally, I think they rely a lot on what we consider the word normal. They also have no physical confirmable data that the drugs used to treat the conditions rely so heavily on. They create a subjugated human—not a bird learning to fly. They suppress the patient’s sexuality (which the western world has a massive hang-up on, “with putting to much emphasis on the thought of sexuality that is not exactly the right place for it (a chopped up quote from Alan Watts)), they overlook the brain’s mapping effect across the body and the body’s crucial role in support thought structures and reality, and consider the mind to be the small tiny portion of the brain known as the pre-fontal cortex that simulates reality around us, or if used to much creates an everlasting loop of anxiety. Psychiatric medicine might help an icarus who has flow too high in the sky but that seems to be the limit; what pesters me so much is the heavy reliant on the word “normal” across the text but for the most part it is screwing over an entire generation of children and young adults after their society initially screwed them, so its like a double screwing except not fun. They fail to realize that bi-polar is likely a condition resulting from lack of grounding, schizophrenia a sensitive healer emerging in consciousness, depression the soul telling the consciousness through the body that some signals were missed, anxiety an overactive thinking mind, and ADHD severe dissociation.

What in the world is normal? A highly introverted person is likely to spend a comfortable time alone. From an extroverted person’s perspective, they may see this as reserved, or shy, or even too much alone time. The canvas’s certainly do not look the same across painters. Even the labels of introverted and extroverted begin to break down once we ask questions about what it even means to be introverted! Sure, there is a definition, but this strings of words just points to more words and more words to more words! So in the DSM V, we see a collection of words that points to words that attempt to capsulate a person’s perspective and psyche. Ambitious task to attempt to encapsulate an individual’s psyche!

It is been suggested that a mindful approach to language, where individuals are made aware of alternative perspectives and conceptions of what is being said or written, leads to more control and better outcomes (Langer and Piper, 1987Langer, 1992a). The DSM is an example from the opposite side, being written using an absolute unconditional language leading to a narrow perspective of the complex human mental conditions and states by labeling some of these conditions as mental disorders. 

Of course, the DSM V certainly has some value. I am sure that psychiatric medical intervention (in this case the form of medication to combat a perceived behavior) is required in many applications. I also think that there is great danger in the DSM V. I just do not want it to be considered a bible of human mental behavior and conditions, written by humans nonetheless—the irony here is like trying to bite your own teeth! I am concerned here, that it is easy to lose oneself in the concept of the DSM V which could then lead one to become fixated on one specific canvas, one specific range of images, which the awareness that things can be thought about differently. We can change the canvas. Which can change the images. We can also shut off the projector.

In conjunction with their clinical utility, DSM categories are been argued to be particularly useful for pharmacological treatment. Perhaps this is the best use of psychiatric diagnoses. However, scientific research remains unclear and controversial about the benefits of a specific type of medication for a specific psychiatric diagnosis and psychotropic medications such as antidepressants and antipsychotics are been prescribed for a multitude of psychiatric disorders, including sleeping, anxiety, depression, irritability, eccentricity, temper tantrums in youth, and crankiness of old age (Frances, 2013, p. 105). 

The scientific process that the DSM V works off of is exactly that, a scientific process, THE scientific process. It is an iterative process that guarantees no “right” answers but a repeatable process that can be verified across different test. It is psychologically limited to the blind spots that a collective memory has, or the culture posses, the American culture suffering from an unfortunate condition of mirrors orbiting 360 degrees (Octavio Paz, El Laberinto de Soledad). The answers remain valid so long as the conditions of the test remain consistent. And again, we have ourselves back at labels representing different concepts attempting to contain an idea such as the psyche! If it is thought that the DSM V and that the labels conveyed about mental health are inherently correct, then I think that it is a naïve way of a approaching a subject that is anfractuously complex. The sin of the DSM V is that human beings cannot be inherently labeled because they have no fixed identity and thus no constant mental field to be called sick; only by anchoring it to something can it become sick. In a society deeply disconnected from proper medicine, they rely on things that generate money with the money likely being infected by some corrupted or disillusioned mental projection.

How does one address the anchoring effect that words have on influencing human behavior and analyzing that behavior and then re-revealing that behavior through the projection? Who is to tell an artist what type of material to use in their canvas or the cinematographer what type of movie to put on the screen? Or a teenager what type of behavior is normal? It seems to that this is a topic that we ought to approach with focused trepidation and caution. It probably does not hurt to be skeptical of it too. Do we even have enough data, or tools for that matter, to understand the effects of Ritalin, Zoloft and other chemicals have on the human population over the course of a mere century or two, when the food supply has been shit, exercise limited, the cerebral intelligence erotically emphasized, and money and security obsessively chased.

It is possible that the American society has much more to learn about the question of how to help people experiencing distressing situations, mental illness, and boosting quality of life and so much more. With that mere sentence, we raise enough doubt as to whether or not the medication system is working that we ought to look for a different way, in my opinion.

It is also possible that the labels that are constructing the canvas are in need of replacing, modifying, transforming. I am pointing to a meta-physical reworking of the way that American’s relate to the world. By dismantling the strength of the words contained within the covers of the DSM V (or screen if being watched on an electronic device) I am not giving much framework with which we can understand these matters. But that is in part my point, how does one understand the canvas? The light? The projecting? The psyche? Humans need to be understood and placed in an environment in which they feel connected and have reasonable access to what they need. This is an idea that I do not think we should overlook when analyzing and categorizing the differs psychic affect disorder. When the population starts to become sick, do you blame to population (an infinitely adaptable species with God-like power or the environment that they have been forced to live in).

I do not see it outside the realm of possibility that many mental health issues (or perceptions of mental health issues for that matter) can be solved by a reworking of concepts and lifestyles and allowing for greater expression of less “normal” behavior using methods like Depth Psychology, Shamanic practices, Yoga, body work, eating less crappy food, etc. Furthermore, it is entirely up to the individual to choose their path of exploration but these options do not get mainstream attention as the American culture has lost touch with most spiritual or mystical connection, clearly not have headed the warning of Roosevelt in his Farewell to the Union. I mean shit, boys are never given their trial by fire coming into manhood initiation so many remain helpless attached to the mother with the mother remaining dependent likewise on the son. It is unfortunately, very common.

Concluding, it seems to me that preserving the individual’s reality is the first and foremost most important aspect of addressing or treating any “psychic affect disorder,” neurosis, emotional struggle, spiritual emergency, etc., especially considering the exponential rush in technological advancement with a notable lag in emotional development. I prefer an artful approach to these matters, a painter duly constructing different canvas’ to feel the effect on the paints or a cinematographer cycling through various colors to alter the effect and affect and believe that the society at large would benefit as well.

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