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Cracked

Why Psychiatry Is Doing More Harm than Good

By James Davies
18-minute read
Cracked: Why Psychiatry Is Doing More Harm than Good by James Davies

Cracked gives a clear and detailed overview of the current crisis in psychiatric science: malfunctioning scientific standards and the powerful influence of pharmaceutical companies have caused the overdiagnosis and overmedication of people all over the world.

  • Anyone involved in psychiatry
  • Anyone receiving psychiatric treatment or considering it
  • Anyone interested in the history of prescription drugs

James Davies is a qualified psychotherapist with a Ph.D. in medical and social anthropology. In addition to writing for numerous publications, such as The Times, Daily Mail and The Guardian, he has also published three academic texts with Stanford University Press, Karnac and Routledge.

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Cracked

Why Psychiatry Is Doing More Harm than Good

By James Davies
  • Read in 18 minutes
  • Contains 11 key ideas
Cracked: Why Psychiatry Is Doing More Harm than Good by James Davies
Synopsis

Cracked gives a clear and detailed overview of the current crisis in psychiatric science: malfunctioning scientific standards and the powerful influence of pharmaceutical companies have caused the overdiagnosis and overmedication of people all over the world.

Key idea 1 of 11

Discrepancies in diagnosis are a major problem for psychiatrists, even with a new manual.

Let’s start with a simple question: If you have a mental health issue, how can you be sure a psychiatrist will diagnose it correctly?

Basically, you can’t. The process of diagnosing psychiatric conditions is more subjective than we might think, depending heavily on the whims and even location of the psychiatrist. One study conducted by Dr. David Rosenhan demonstrates the consequences of these highly individual diagnoses.

He sent a group of eight academics to different hospitals, each of them with the complaint that they heard a voice in their heads saying the word “thud,” but were otherwise behaving normally. All of them were diagnosed with various mental disorders and prescribed strong antipsychotic pills. Most were held in hospitals for weeks, even after explaining that they were part of a study!

Furthermore, statistics show that psychiatrists across the world only share a consensus on patient diagnoses for the same patient 32 to 42 percent of the time. However, there are regional similarities in diagnoses. For example, when we compare trends in psychiatric diagnoses across countries, we find that psychiatrists from the US and Russia are twice as likely to diagnose their patients as schizophrenic than their colleagues in Europe.

These discrepancies arise despite the fact that psychologists have already standardized the diagnosis of mental disorders in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or the DSM.

The DSM contains all psychiatric disorders known in modern medicine and has been continually edited and refined since its first publication under the title DSM-I in 1952.

However, the standards found in the DSM are based on the consensus of psychiatrists, not on scientific research. For example, homosexuality used to be categorized as a mental disease in DSM-II. This all changed during the gay rights movement in the 1970s, during which psychiatrists voted to remove homosexuality from the manual’s third edition, DSM-III.

Unlike other medical sciences, where doctors can agree if a patient’s leg is broken based on the available evidence, e.g., an X-ray, psychiatrists cannot diagnose patients in a way that enjoys a unanimous consensus.

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