vendredi, mai 06, 2011

Goin' crazy on you - Living la vida loca in a therapeutic society

Did you know that the experts who get to diagnose our mental disorders are coming out with a new bunch of labels for the woes that wake us up at night?

Here's the first paragraph from the page, replete with links, that the APA (American Psychological Association) has on those proposed changes.

You will notice several changes to this Web site since we first launched in February 2010. Numerous disorders contain updated criteria. For example, nearly all of the Bipolar and Related Disorders contain updates. We have also posted several newly proposed disorders, such as Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder. Furthermore, we have added many diagnostic-specific severity measures, including the Anxiety, Obsessive-Compulsive-Related, and Trauma-Related Disorders. A detailed listing of all changes to that have taken place since February 2010 can be found on theRecent Updates page.

And why should you care, you ask yourself. Why should changes in the new edition of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM 5) concern lil' ol' me?

I'll tell you why I care, first. And then you can make up your own mind -- if you don't have indecisive disorder.

I have personal and professional reasons for curiosity about the way our Ph.D. establishment looks at mental illness (ooops, sorry disorders).

First of all, I'm a therapy vet. Ongoing visits to someone with a string of letters at the end of their name is de rigeur for clergy.

Coming out of a failed marriage, I had a strong desire to become as healthy as I could.

In addition - clergy, who like other social service professionals often still are offered license to poke around in the cluttered basements of other people's psyches, can find themselves in situations where they have to make speedy judgment calls -- am I being intolerant? Or are you really acting nuts?

I'm sure that most of us have found ourselves in situations where we had to take a hard look and ask ourselves what falls within the perameters of normal -- and what is outside the lines. Of course, that assumes that as a society we have some agreed-on idea of what 'normal' is, to begin with.

I have a third reason. As a future counselor (I'm working on a degree), I also need to have a basic understanding of how diagnoses are made. Eventually, I might be signing your receipts (find another therapist, fast!)

So perhaps it seems a bit strange that I'm questioning the avalanche of new potential diagnoses . But it strikes me that we are living in a society in which everyone, pretty much has a label that will explain it all. And that's a bit scary.

Do you get anxious on planes? Do you go nuts when someone cuts in front of you while you are buying groceries? Do you get furious at tailgaters? Are you a guy dealing with the inevitable changes aging brings? Do Democrats (Republicans, libertarians, Yankee-lovers) infuriate you?

Have I got a label for you, love.

Remember (those of you who are old enough) when you were simply neurotic? It was the college prof who gave you a C, or your girlfriend's prudish father, who were psychotic. Simple.

We live in a culture in which everyone (in part thanks to our insurance companies) has a complex diagnosis.

Given the curve balls life can toss at us, perhaps that isn't surprising.

Sadly, however, for those of us who grapple with mental disorders profound enough to affect our daily lives and keep us from becoming the people we were meant to be, cures are still as elusive as ever.

So practice compassion -- and don't buy into the code game.

Better you don't know what he or she is writing on your slip.

You might need more therapy -- or another therapist to cure you of the label.

mercredi, mai 04, 2011

My disillusionment manifesto

Everyone has their gifts -- but our gifts have their shadow side.

One of my double-edged abilities is a slant towards what one old friend memorably called a "hellish honesty."

I slice through rationalizations like a butcher -- including my own.

Recognizing that sometimes even the "facts" are debatable, and we seem to have different "truths," I want to know your perspective.

I may learn something new.

I might be changed.

Pin me down? Good luck with that.

Of course, the downside of that position is taking a long time to make a choice, or stand on the side of the "angels" or be courageous when bravery is called for.

And one can become cynical. Very cynical.

Doubtful to the point where it seems like there are so many forms of "illusionment" out there that faith in human idealism (in many senses of the word) and good sense is just a waste of time.

I also realize that I, too, can be inconsistent, random, and judgmental (of those who are too judgmental or snarky, of course).

There is a profound loneliness that goes with taking a position outside the boundaries, whatever those boundaries may be.

Like the nonbelievers I have met who say that they "envy" a faith that aids believers in difficult times, I yearn for the passion to pursue a goal, even if that goal ultimately turns out to be nothing but a mirage or a compromise with reality.

I think.

But I can see equally compelling arguments against this perspective.

Let me get back to you on a few decades.


How about you? Do you suffer from illusion envy? Do you have tough times making up your mind about "big questions?" Talk, baby.