In a recent article discussing a new draft of the diagnosis handbook ‘Diagnostic and Statistical Manual’ (DSM5), used by doctors in the US, the question is asked, “Should we be ashamed of shyness”. Apparently, now, there’s a pill for that … and for crying, fear of authority, speaking in public, etc.
“One pill makes you larger/ And one pill makes you small/ And the ones that mother gives you/ Don’t do anything at all/ Go ask Alice, when she’s ten feet tall” – White Rabbit by Jefferson Airplane
It seems there are two major sides lining up for this debate: the drug companies who stand to make big profits by encouraging governments to expand the classifications of what constitutes a mental illness (at extra expense to public and private healthcare systems); verses, the vast majority of health care professionals – primarily psychiatrists and psychologists in the US and the UK – who, as Duke University’s medical journal editors observed: that medical doctors tempted to prescribe pills “would do better to offer time, compassion, remembrance and empathy” … instead of “medicalising” normal human emotion. Already, the American Psychiatric Association now recognizes 347 categories for mental disorders – up from 128 in 1959.
“When men on the chessboard/ Get up and tell you where to go/ And you’ve just had some kind of mushroom/ And your mind is moving low/ Go ask Alice, I think she’ll know”
My own feelings on the subject of being prescribed pills “for all that ails you”, are varied and conflicted – from being grateful that something existed for genuine medical conditions; and for being concerned for the pressure on doctors, demanded by society, for pills for everything.
We all know, for example, the risks of overusing antibiotics. Taken when needed is fine, but abusive use may render them ineffective when you really do need them – as the body builds up a resistance to them.
Also, (and as a layman I can’t really understand) why you would want to make a social phobia out of a normal human trait for something like shyness or fear of public speaking? I mean, I can understand the judicious use of drugs for extended depression, bereavement and grief, but I think it’s dangerous to automatically classify them as mental illness. Sometimes, even with loving support, the healing process naturally takes time.
The final point is one of adverse reactions. You’ll see that listed as, “this drug may cause…”, and that’s something that could cause worst side effects than the prescribed cure. I know, I’ve been there; and I’ve been grateful for the health care afforded me to fine tune my way through the healing process.
In the end – tragic and unforeseen events to the contrary – we need to take personal responsibility for our own well-being … and that’s called prevention.
“And if you go chasing rabbits/ And you know you’re going to fall/ Tell them a hookah smoking caterpillar/ He has given you the call/ Go ask Alice, when she was just small”