Tuesday, November 22

Madmen in authority distill their frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years back

The great depression By Will Wilkinson
[Allan Horwitz, a renowned sociologist of mental health, and Jerome Wakefield, a top theorist of psychiatric classification] relate how the contemporary clinical conception of depression became almost uselessly lax, lumping the healthy sadness of a tough break-up together with the inexplicably chronic gloom of genuine dysfunction.

The "epidemic" of depression, they argue, "is partly an artifact of a logical error," which both trivializes the very real suffering of the truly ill and leads to a "one-dimensional public discourse that can undermine our capacity for making moral and political distinctions."

So why don't we just back up and fix the error? This is science, right? Yes. But it's also big money.

Thousands of mental health studies, hundreds of careers and tens of millions of dollars in research funding are wrapped up in this broken diagnostic category. Medical and mental health professionals who get paid by the likes of Aetna have an interest in keeping the category as permissive as possible.

And don't forget pharmaceutical companies that want to sell huge quantities of mood-enhancers in a society where people are taught to believe they shouldn't take drugs unless they're officially "sick."

Finally, will employers tolerate dolorous employees if they can be medicated into a higher gear of productivity?

Incentives matter. And the incentives in favor of continued diagnostic inaccuracy ensure that the real incidence of depression will continue to be overestimated; our real success as a society in pursuit of happiness will continue to get short shrift.

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