There is much debate about the value or accuracy of much psychiatric diagnosis and labelling as expressed in the doctor’s mental health ‘bible’ of the DSM V (this is the fifth version of the American Psychiatric Association’s ‘Diagnostic and Statistical Manual’.) These are my reflections.
LACK OF CAUSATION
Many psychological professionals now regard DSM V as simply a list of observable symptoms – so that if you have enough of them, you can then be labelled and funded to be given the correct regime of drugs. The DSM V is an attempt to bring the scientific accuracy used for physical medicine into the realm of mental illness.
It should be noted that the DSM V is only the view of one particular Psychiatric Association and one that relies heavily on the approach of Psychopharmacology – the use of drugs to address psychological problems. However, Psychopharmacology is only one of only three approaches to mental health. The other two can be summarised as Psychotherapy (or the talking therapies) and Somatotherapy (the body based therapies).
WHAT ABOUT THE OTHER 66%?
As far as Psychopharmacology and the DSM V goes, the idea that our unique and complex emotional and psychological histories can all be treated by simply swallowing a pill has been disproved by the sheer numbers of people still walking around with unresolved mental health problems. Without doubt Psychopharmacology is a valuable tool for some people, at some points in their mental health – but it is not a cure-all. The mistaken belief that we can solve everyone’s emotional and psychological issues by swallowing a pill is seductive – but simply not true.
NOT AN ILLNESS OR ‘DISEASE’
What is clear is that, over the last 30 years, the discoveries of neuroscience have shown conclusively that DSM V diagnoses bear no resemblance to any observable patterns of brain activity.
What neuroscience has noticed in that time is that the impact of early trauma repeatedly shows the same structurally visible brain pattern changes across a wide range of individuals and a very similar cluster of symptoms. This is directly correlated with a reduction in our ability to cope with everyday life and a lowering of our resilience to trauma later in life.
This means that much so-called mental health ‘diagnosis’ may have simply missed the key point – that all our difficulties have their source in the effects on our brains from early or later trauma*. This now makes the treatment of trauma the most important activity of our times – for everyone’s mental health. It also means that using the ‘disease model’ for mental problems is outdated and more or less disproved. Not a single ‘disease’ has been found despite decades of brain scanning!
MODELS THAT WORK
Encouragingly, neuroscience has also shown that for the vast majority of problems, the human brain can mend itself from within far more effectively than from chemical interventions from without. Interestingly, psychologically focused SOMATIC therapies have been proving themselves to be highly effective in helping people resolve and heal their mental health problems long term. This is being done through some very simple ‘re-wiring’ of our neural connections through a combination of both somatic and psychological interventions. This is in striking contrast to the drug dependency (often life-long ) created by the Psychopharmacological approach.
For the vast majority of us, these drugs neither build our long term resilience nor are most of them necessary for our long term mental health. Many of them can in fact be damaging and harmful.
A VERY good book to read…
WHO AM I TO COMMENT?
Health and wellbeing has been my career and my life for over 3 decades – first as a Massage therapist, then a Psychotherapist and now as a trainer and supervisor of other therapists. I’ve learnt many lessons along the way – among them, that one size certainly doesn’t fit all. Another lesson is the immense power of psycho-education for genuine personal empowerment.
Each of the three approaches to mental health has its place – but none deserves to be lauded over the others to the extent that Psychopharmacology has been. My passion now lies in bringing together proven and effective tools from Psychotherapy and Somatotherapy and creating a supportive community for health and growth through THE KNOWLEDGE.
*This is the reason why the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCSTN) in America is now running trials on a new and simple diagnosis coined ‘Developmental Trauma Disorder’ (DTD) that could encompass 80% of so called DSM V ‘mental health disorders’. Such a ‘causative diagnosis’ could pave the way for a significant increase in Government funding for both psychotherapeutic and somatotherapeutic approaches.