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We pathologise normal behaviour

The psychiatric practice of classifying normal behaviour, giving it scientific-sounding labels and re-categorising it as a condition has been covered in the press. This included a statement from the Prof Simon Wessely, the new president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

He said: “It’s psychiatry which is against the medicalisation of normality.”

That was news to me. Psychiatrists manufacture the labels and redefine normal. Prof Wessely said “…ADHD and other conditions were real disorders, for which drugs did work.” When you put the two statements together, there is a fundamental contradiction.

To begin with, ADHD, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, was conceived at a meeting of the American Psychiatric Association in 1987. It was brought into being by a show of hands, and duly included in a textbook, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Psychiatrists consider it a real disorder, but for those who use scientific evidence to support claims of an illness it’s fictional. To this day, there have been no scientific tests to support the existence of ADHD.

Then, there are the diagnostic criteria. Whichever way you try and bend them, the criteria are still reflective of normal childhood behaviour. They include “often has difficulty sustaining attention in tasks or play activities”; “often has difficulties organising tasks and activities”; “often avoids, dislikes or is reluctant to engage in tasks that require sustained mental effort”; “often loses things necessary for tasks or activities”; “is often forgetful in daily activities”; “is often on the go”; “often talks excessively” and “often interrupts or intrudes on others”. It’s a reclassification of normal behaviour with a scientific-sounding, made-up label.

Then, there are the drugs that produce nullifying effects and which are hailed as ‘demonstrably effective’. All that has happened is the person has been drugged, and is exhibiting the effects of a dangerous, mind-altering foreign substance in his or her body. Psychiatric drugs have an effect on a person: they will keep him/her quiet and compliant, but drugs don’t cure anything.

The fundamental contradiction lies in the fact that psychiatrists manufacture the labels, they diagnose the ‘disorders,’ and they prescribe the drugs.

If psychiatry was against the medicalisation of normality, then ‘disorders’ like ADHD would be scrapped, the drugging of children would decrease, and the real cause of problems would be found and treated, using less invasive treatments. It’s time for change.

Brian Daniels

National Spokesperson Citizens Commission on Human Rights (United Kingdom)

PO Box 188

East Grinstead

West Sussex RH19 4RB


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