Let’s Fight Big Pharma’s Crusade to Turn Eccentricity Into Illness

My wife reading in bed. And it wasn't because ...

As both a psychiatrist and a confirmed eccentric, this is dear to my heart:

“With an assist from an overly ambitious psychiatry, all human difference is being transmuted into chemical imbalance meant to be treated with a handy pill. Turning difference into illness was among the great strokes of marketing genius accomplished in our time.

All the great characters in myths, novels, and plays have endured the test of time precisely because they drift so colorfully away from the mean. Do we really want to put Oedipus on the couch, give Hamlet a quick course of behavior therapy, start Lear on antipsychotics?

I think not. Human diversity has its purposes or it would not have survived the evolutionary rat race. Our ancestors made it because the tribe combined a wide variety of talents and inclinations. There were leaders high on their own narcissism and followers content enough to be dependent on them; people who were paranoid enough to sniff out hidden threats, compulsive enough to get the job done, and exhibitionistic enough to attract mates. Perhaps the healthiest individuals were those who best balanced all these traits somewhere near the golden mean, but the best bet for the group was to have outliers always ready to step up to the plate as the particular occasion demanded.

I like eccentricity and eccentrics. The word eccentric comes from Greek geometry meaning “out of center.” It entered English as an astronomical description of the rotational paths of the heavenly bodies. Now it is used to describe people who are different — mostly with pejorative connotations, not often enough with admiration for their particular genius.

Nature abhors homogeneity and simply adores eccentric diversity. We should celebrate the fact that most humans are at least somewhat eccentric and accept ourselves as we are, warts and all. Human difference was never meant to be reducible to an exhaustive list of diagnoses drawn carelessly from a psychiatric manual.” (Wired.com)

This is by Allen Frances MD, professor emeritus and former chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science at Duke University School of Medicine. The Chairman of the DSM-IV Task Force and part of the leadership group for previous editions, Frances’ book Saving Normal: An Insider’s Revolt Against Out-of-Control Psychiatric Diagnosis, DSM-5, Big Pharma, and the Medicalization of Ordinary Life was released this week.

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