Mental Illness and Stats
So I decided not to write about qualitiative and quantitative data this week. Mainly because I’ve written about it in a previous blog so I decided to write about mental illness because it really interests me. As this is a stats blog I will somehow try and link the two together…
Being diagnosed with a mental health disorder can really have an impact on your life. Illnesses like Schizophrenia cannot be cured and will impact your everyday life forever so when diagnosing mental illnesses we have to be sure that our diagnostic method is valid. Especially if the patient is being prescribed strong tablets like lithium for example. In 1952 the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) was published. It is used by many psychiatrists and clinical psychologists to diagnose patients It is basically the standard criteria of mental disorders. This ensures that over the world in diagnostics, research, health insurance and psychiatric drug regulation there is a general consensus over the symptoms and treatments of mental illness. So If I was Schizophrenic I would expect to receive the same treatment in america as I would in the UK. To ensure Validity the DSM is now in its 5th edition. It is keeping up to date so mental disorders are added and some are removed. A good example is homosexuality was originally in the DSM but has now been removed as more research has demonstrated that it is not a mental disorder.
I have also found out that in different cultures there are different mental illnesses. Anorexia and Bulimia are seen as western illnesses. In India there is a mental illness called Dhat which is categorised by anxiety and hypochondria about the discharge or semen. Also in west africa there is a condition called “brain fag” which is associated with male high school or university students who have difficulty concentrating, remembering and thinking there are also physical symptoms around the head and the neck like blurriness of vision and pain. The most interesting case I found though is mainly found in Japan and is called “Paris syndrome”. Basically Japanese tourists go to Paris expecting a beautiful romantic city then find out that it is actually grotty and busy and not like the pictures in the magazine. Other reasons for developing the syndrome have said to be the language barrier, jet lag and culture shock. Symptoms include hallucinations, feelings of persecution, depression, anxiety and dizziness. It has got to the point where Japanese tourists are given psychological tests and offered counselling when they return from paris. Anyway, back to Validity. If different cultures have different mental illness then surely we need to question the reliability and validity of the DSM because in todays society people experience very different upbringings and if social factors affect mental illness then surely scientific statistical diagnoses isn’t the best method.
There have been many critiques of the DSM some say that it is invalid and is based on the subjective opinions of a few powerful psychiatrists. WIlliam Glasser says that is has “phony diagnostic categories”. The Rosenhan “being sane in insane places” study http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosenhan_experiment shows how easy it is to get wrongly diagnosed and when somebody sees you are “crazy” they view you in a different way. For example on participant was writing notes for the study and a nurse described it as “obsessive writing”. I haven’t been able to find a citation but at A level I learnt about a study where mental health professionals were given a list of symptoms for a mental disorder more common in females, all symptoms were identical but there were both male and female names used. They found that females were more likely to be diagnosed so there is the issue of gender bias aswell. There is also the controversial of influence from psychopharmaceutical companies influencing what treatment to recommend apparently over half of the authors of the DSM-IV had financial relationships with the psychopharmaceutical industry at some time.
So basically what i’m trying to say is that although there are a lot of examples and ideas about why the DSM may not be effective I’m just happy that it exists because otherwise wrong diagnostics would be made all the time and at least there is a consensus on mental disorders.