Monday, November 06, 2006

Psychiatric Labels

Have you noticed how a psychiatric diagnosis has authority? When someone says they have bi-polar disorder don't you get the feeling the person's behavior is explained by something formal? With psychiatric diagnosis there seems to be a certain explanatory flair to them - they seem so official, as if they explain the entire range of a certain set of behaviors within a disorder.

For example, if someone says "I have Bi-polar II with Dysthymic Depression Disorder", this is clearly different than "Not all the time but more often than not my attitude is sour and sometimes I just don't feel like doing anything to pull myself out of it. There are days when I am so blue that I am really physically tired and I would rather lay in bed all day. But, I just have to wait around for the "good" days because they do come. There are some days when I feel like I have so much energy, these come usually after I've been in bed for three days straight, that I lose control over my cravings and usually buy something that I really can't afford."

Psychiatric diagnosis tend to point to what somebody has, what is going on with them, what they are doing - not why? Psychiatric diagnosis are labels that explain symptoms, they do not explain the underlying reasons for the behavior.

The popular assumption is that the list of descriptions of a disorder is the same as the definition of a medical condition. Although there are clearly biological theories to explain psychiatric disorders, as I mentioned in earlier posts, there are no tests that pin point and affirm the findings of a disorder. At this point, even with recent brain research, it is not accurate to say someone has a psychiatric disorder just like someone has a virus. It this is done then the heart is being left totally out of it.

Psychiatric vocabulary is loaded with assumptions that point to physical causes and it does not distinguish between heart problems and physical problems.

Psychiatric terminology is good and useful but it must been seen through biblical lenses.


Carla said...

I am grateful for all of your posts on mental health. You have me thinking, which can be dangerous I know, but I am glad you are my Pat.

erin said...

I like that you point out that there are THEORIES related to the symptoms that psychiatry describes. These descriptions are not a means to an end, just an idea on what could be causing the "problem." There is nothing more frustrating than hearing someone say, "He has ADD." or "She has depression." As if either is a virus you can catch. They're not viruses--they're theories as to why a person acts the way they do, which I think is incredibly unfair.

erin said...

I mean it's unfair to categorize someone in such a generic box. Make sense?