Mental health and the diagnostic process: A neurofuturist perspective
As I discussed in my recent article about co-occurring conditions, the diagnostic process in psychiatry is inherently flawed on the basis that we have failed to find any meaningful relationship between the so-called “symptoms” of psychiatric conditions, and physical biomarkers which can be measured. Despite this lack of physiological cause, we are still diagnosing people as mentally “ill”. Despite this model not improving outcomes for around half a century.
So now we are faced with the issue of how diagnosis is not just given, but also how it is given responsibly.
One of the biggest flaws of psychiatry is the circular logic that dominates the diagnostic process. A person is Schizophrenic because they have symptoms of Schizophrenia, and they have those symptoms because they are Schizophrenic. This logic does not allow for a nuanced understanding of why a person may experience this particular cluster of traits, it simply follows that A = B, which is because of A.
If this is the case, how does one escape from circular logic?
We have to look for causes for traits and “symptoms” outside of the realm of medicine. While I have often remarked that external factors are the only thing with a meaningful relationship to these experiences, medicine is yet to catch up. It seems reasonable to assume that traumatic experiences are the cause of psychiatric conditions and not a problem within the body. This has ramifications for the future of psychiatry.
If people are not “unwell”, psychiatry now has a moral duty to advocate for it’s patients. Psychiatry needs to evolve into a tool for social change, and cease to be a weapon wielded by normative society. Beyond this, psychiatry needs an understanding of the relationships between neurodivergence, trauma, and psychological distress. It is not enough for psychiatrists to bandage the wound, they need to remove the knife from the hand of society.
This requires us to radically rethink our entire perspective on normality and cultural normative standards. We can not just medicate people and expect them to assimilate into society. We need to help them understand their own unique space in the environment and how to embrace their journey through that space.
As I discuss in my book A Treatise on Chaos, identity is a shifting and ever changing value. We are, at our core, beings of chaos. Psychiatry needs to be a tool for supporting us in the more challenging parts of that chaos, and not serve as a ring-fence around the Self.
Psychiatry is not completely off the trail. Medication can serve as an important tool to support a person’s wellbeing, and can be very helpful for reducing the more troubling and distressing aspects of psychological distress. The most important thing is that we all put in the work to evolve psychiatry and mental health support into a means to challenge the oppressive systems that exist within our world.
It’s time to stop the navel-gazing, and build a better future.
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