Hopes&Fears has a beautiful feature up today on the lives of service dogs for people with psychiatric disabilities and mental illnesses.
Michael sez, "The American Psychiatric Association recently released a new version of its Diagnostic & Statistical Manual - basically a catalogue of the categories into which they divide suffering. This entertaining review treats the text as a sprawling dystopian novel." Read the rest
In this video, Sidney Cohen (author of The Beyond Within: The L.S.D. Story, administers LSD under clinical conditions to an unnamed "normal person" (her description), some time in the 1950s. Her description of her experience is really wonderful -- you can tell she's going through something profound and amazing. As Reason's Jacob Sullum wrote in 2011,
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The experience she describes includes familiar themes such as gorgeous colors, geometric patterns, microscopic particles suddenly visible, and a sense of transcendence, oneness, and ineffability:
"I can see everything in color. You have to see the air. You can't believe it....I've never seen such infinite beauty in my life....Everything is so beautiful and lovely and alive....This is reality...I wish I could talk in Technicolor....I can't tell you about it. If you can't see it, then you'll just never know it. I feel sorry for you."
Today all this may sound hackneyed, but what's striking about this woman's account is that her expectations were not shaped by the huge surge of publicity that LSD attracted in the next two decades. Although she had not heard what an LSD trip was supposed to be like, her experience included several of the features that later came to be seen as typical—a reminder that, as important as "set and setting" are, "drug" matters too.
Despite the similarity between this woman's description of her experience and testimonials from acid aficionados of the '60s and '70s, her presentation is so calm and nonthreatening that it is hard to imagine how anyone could perceive this drug as an intolerable danger to society.
This is a really important long read that we all need to pay attention to. It concerns how we treat people with who are suffering from paranoid delusions — and how we treat people whose families worry that they are a threat to others. It concerns the relationships between doctors and the pharmaceutical industry. It concerns the ethics of clinical trials — the risks we run as we test potential treatments that could help many, or hurt a few, or both. If we want to reform mental health care, this needs to be part of the discussion.
In 2004, Dan Markingson committed suicide. The story behind that death is complicated and depressing. At the Molecules to Medicine blog, Judy Stone documents the whole thing in three must-read chapters. Many people find help in psychiatric drugs, and credit those drugs with making their lives better. (Full disclosure, I'm one of them. I have used Ritalin for several years. I am temporarily on an anti-depressant.) But we have to pay attention to how those drugs get to us. This isn't just about treating people. It's about the process that gets us there. Because, if that process is compromised, the treatments we get won't be as effective and lives will be lost along the way.
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Markingson began to show signs of paranoia and delusions in 2003, believing that he needed to murder his mother. He was committed to Fairview Hospital involuntarily after being evaluated by Dr. Stephen Olson, of the University of Minnesota. He was subsequently enrolled on a clinical trial of antipsychotic drugs—despite protests from his mother.
The American Psychiatric Association is set to add "disruptive mood dysregulation disorder" to the Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM), the bible of psychiatric disorders. A kid has "DMDD" if she or he has "severe recurrent temper outbursts that are grossly out of proportion in intensity or duration to the situation... at least three times a week."
As Wired's David Dobbs notes, this describes basically all kids ("No, I don't want to wear my rain boots!") at some time or another. So why is this being considered? Here's Neuroskeptic's explanation:
DMDD seems to be nothing to do with mood, but instead covers a pattern of misbehavior which is already covered by not one but two labels already. Why add a misleadingly-named third?
Well, the back-story is that in the past ten years, many American kids and even toddlers have got diagnosed with ‘child bipolar disorder‘ – a disease considered extremely rare everywhere else. To stop this, the DSM-5 committee want to introduce DMDD as a replacement. This is the officially stated reason for introducing it. On the evidence of this paper and others it wouldn’t even achieve this dubious goal.
The possibility of just going to back to the days when psychiatrists didn’t diagnose prepubescent children with bipolar (except in very rare cases) seems to not be on the table.