Yesterday, as is my wont, I was watching television, when there happened to be a little program on the Learning Channel entitled Searching for Sanity. The premise of the show was that 10 strangers, five with diagnosed mental disorders, could be forced to live together for a week or something, given a bunch of onerous tasks to be completed as a team, all the while under the observation of a team of "psychiatric experts" who are kept in the dark about all the stranger's mental conditions.
The challenge was for the Psych Team to be able to pick out the head cases based on their activities and reactions. The Pshrinks were being tested to see if they could accurately distinguish the Moon-Howlers from the 'Normal' folks, and if they could make a diagnosis which was in line with the disorders on view. In addition, they were also being tested to see if they could distinguish between characteristics which are more accurately described as personality traits as opposed to full-blown mental diseases. And guess what happened?
The Pshrinks -- a Psychiatric Nurse, a Renown Psychiatrist, and a Professor of Psychiatry --were wrong about 60% of the time. They managed to tag members of the 'Control Group' as mentally ill when they weren't, and missed some of the insanity of the Rubber Room Brigade entirely.
All that clinical training, all that education, all that experience, and they had the same results you would expect as if they had simply guessed at Who's the Loony, or had a chicken peck at the Dingbats completely at random. Might as well have been blindfolded for the entire week. Before I completely destroy the Mental Health Profession for such dismal results, we need to take two things into consideration:
1. The test took place in England, where the Socialized Medical system has probably resulted in doctors who really don't give a shit. They're basically better-paid factory workers or trash collectors, who can't be sued for malpractice, and who have operated for years under a mess of government guidelines that are probably both contradictory and convoluted, and so there's bound to be some apathy, some bad work habits, and a lot of complacency within them.
2. Some of the Mental Patients had been undergoing therapy for many years, or were on medications which masked their symptoms during the test. But the results were astounding, and reinforced, in my mind, something I've been saying for a very long time: Modern Psychology is complete and utter bullshit, very often practiced by individuals who only initially took psychiatry up in school so as to discover what was wrong with themselves.
After a near-decade on the couch myself, I've come to the conclusion that a Psychiatrist is merely someone who is often in a position to offer you some common-sense advice, but refrains from doing so because they like the $400, 45-minute hour too much. Only with a prescription pad. They substitute whatever cancer is eating away at your brain --Mommy didn't love me, the Little Green Men live under my bed, the World is out to Get Me -- with the super-addictive drugs of sympathy and empathy. That they're faking both doesn't occur to you. That sympathy and empathy is what keeps you coming back, like the heroin addict to the Spike, and allows Dr. Douche to get the leather and wood interior in the new Beemer this year.
And speaking of prescription pads, the Mental-Diseases-are-the-result-of-chemical-imbalances- in-the-brain school of psychiatry probably does more harm than good, dispensing a variety of meds that:
1. No one knows exactly how or why they work, and sometimes, even if they will.
2. Probably have no long-lasting therapeutic value.
3. Can be addictive.
4. Produce other health risks when used for extended periods of time.
Because giving you some drugs is a lot easier than having to listen to your bullshit, and then having to offer you some decent advice. Besides, it's covered by insurance, ain't it?