Diagnostic Insanity

Making People Sick and Crazy
By Jack Wheeler, Ph.D.

Dr. Jack Wheeler is the editor of Strategic Intelligence newsletter. He is a geopolitical consultant to the chairmen of a number of international companies and to members of the US Congress. Following is a letter he wrote to one of the latter, an individual Jack would like to someday be President of the United States. He wrote it, however, as a letter to a dear personal friend, thinking what better gift could he give a friend in this Christmas season, than to better enable him to think and work and live at an optimal level. We changed the name of Jack's friend to preserve his privacy. For information or subscriptions regarding Strategic Intelligence, which provides an astonishing array of unique geopolitical insights, you may call 1-800-305- 2313.

Dr. Jack Wheeler is the man The Washington Post called the real-life Indiana Jones. He personally discovered three tribes never before contacted by civilization and is the only person listed in the Guinness Book of Records to sky dive onto the North Pole. At 14, he climbed the Matterhorn. At 16, he swam the Hellespont - as legendary Leander did to rendezvous with Hero - lived with Jivaro headhunters in the Amazon, and also later that year camped with Mongol nomads in the Gobi desert. A veteran of six anti-communist guerrilla conflicts, many credit Jack with delivering the coup de grace that ended the Cold War.
erb Kutchins and Stuart Kirk are professors at the University of California who for 15 years have been studying the bible of the American Psychiatric Association - the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, referred to as the "DSM." When they began their study, the DSM listed 106 such disorders. Today, it lists over 300. This shift, they contend, reflects the "growing tendency in our society to medicalize problems that are not medical, to find psychopathology where there is only pathos, and to pretend to understand phenomena by merely giving them a label."

Doctors, psychologists, and lawyers all have a vested interest in Making Us Crazy.1 By applying the language of illness to everyday behavior, they can transform ordinary reactions to life's vicissitudes into billable pathology. For them to receive payment from health insurance companies, they must find a way of labeling their patient with a recognized condition. That's the actual reason why "attention deficiency syndrome" or "oppositional defiant disorder" is diagnosed in so many boisterous small boys. Little Johnny pulls the girls' hair in the classroom a few times, is found to have a "disorder," and is put on medication. Scores of invented mental illnesses are thus foisted upon ordinary Americans by the mental disorder industry, which gets amply paid by insurance companies for treating them.

Everything from bad handwriting to impulsive shopping sprees, the DSM claims, is caused by some "internal dysfunction." There's "paranoid personality disorder" (holding grudges), "hypoactive sexual desire disorder" (low sex drive), and "Asperger's disorder" (shyness). The name of the psychiatric game is, if you can pathologize behavior, you can cash in on it.

The psychiatric profession thus has a vested interest in seeing people as mentally impaired: it can't make money if they are not. It has no vested interest in seeing people as mentally normal, because to do so would require the entire profession to undergo a paradigm shift. Instead of a paradigm of negativity, assuming something is wrong and demanding to be paid for trying to fix it, it would have to shift to a paradigm of optimization. Such a paradigm would assume that the average person is mentally normal, and would seek as its recompensed goal ways to strengthen and optimize normal mental health.

This is not to argue that all mental illness is a fiction, that no disorder listed in the DSM has a neurological basis. Such a position, taken by Peter Breggin, author of Toxic Psychiatry, and others, is preposterous. Maladies such as schizophrenia, autism, and severe depression can indeed be caused by gross neurochemical malfunctioning which may be alleviated or improved only by psychopharmacological medication. Even here, however, the emphasis is on treatment, not cure, with the purpose of the treatment most often to simply make the patient be quiet.

In cahoots with the psychiatric profession to maintain the paradigm of negativity is the pharmaceutical industry. The DSM states that some 5 percent of all Americans - about 12 million people - suffer from a condition called "generalized anxiety disorder," a statistic that delights the makers of Prozac, Xanax and beta-blockers. Kutchins and Kirk emphasize the direct interest that pharmaceutical companies have in the creation of newer disorders when they say: "For the drug companies, the unlabeled masses are a vast untapped market, the virgin Alaska oil fields of mental disorder."

We are now at the edge of the abyss, the great gulf that divides the pharmaceutical industry from the nutritional industry. The former operates within the paradigm of negativity, the latter within the paradigm of optimization. Will Block, Durk Pearson, and other leaders of nutritional innovation are not primarily focused on curing maladies; rather, they are focused on making normal health better, on making products that extend and optimize one's life.

Certainly pharmaceutical companies produce many medications that alleviate and sometimes cure physical diseases, and we all should be exceedingly grateful to them for doing so. But their great burden is that this is all they can do. They cannot develop products that make healthy people better. And this "cannot" is a purely psychological belief. They and their bureaucratic masters at the FDA have convinced themselves that the law will not allow them to enhance life beyond some baseless common denominator.

Specifically, they all believe they cannot adopt a paradigm of optimization even if they wanted to because the Kefauver Amendment prevents it. In 1962, Congress amended the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (the founding authorization of the FDA), adding an "efficacy" clause. Instead of simply being proven "safe," a drug now had to be proven both "safe and effective" in order to be approved for public sale and consumption. Ever since, this phrase has been interpreted to mean effective in ameliorating or curing a specific human ailment or disease. It is tragic that this interpretation has never been challenged.

It turns out that the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act gives no definition of "effective." In its Definitions section (II, 321), the term is not listed. Where the term is used, it merely specifies that to be approved a new drug must be "safe and effective under the conditions prescribed" [II, 321(p)(1)], and that it must "have the effect it purports, or is represented to have under the conditions of use prescribed, recommended, or suggested in the proposed labeling thereof" [V, A360b(d)]. That's it. No negativity is imposed, just interpreted.

Thus the entire centi-billion dollar pharmaceutical industry is trapped in an illusion: that the only way to make money is to find - or invent - diseases to cure; that it is somehow not allowed to make money by providing products enabling people to mentally and physically function better, faster, smarter, and longer. One day this industry will embrace the paradigm of optimization. We, however, do not have to wait until they wake up from their self-imposed delusion. Will, Durk, and their colleagues in the front lines of life extension have made it possible for you and me to start optimizing ourselves now, and to disregard the ideas of those who would have us believe we are all sick and crazy.

  1. Making Us Crazy: DSM, The Psychiatric Bible and the Creation of Mental Disorders, by Herb Kutchins and Stuart A. Kirk, Free Press, New York, $27.50.

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