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Monday, May 27, 2013

David Brooks, "Heroes of Uncertainty": Psychiatrists Are "Heroes"? Don't Go There!

Just when Eugene Robinson of The Washington Post has me questioning my sanity (see:, David Brooks has come to "help me" (like the person from the IRS who comes knocking on your door) with his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Heroes of Uncertainty" ( Brooks kindly explains:

"The problem is that the behavorial sciences like psychiatry are not really sciences; they are semi-sciences. The underlying reality they describe is just not as regularized as the underlying reality of, say, a solar system.

As the handbook’s many critics have noted, psychiatrists use terms like 'mental disorder' and 'normal behavior,' but there is no agreement on what these concepts mean. When you look at the definitions psychiatrists habitually use to define various ailments, you see that they contain vague words that wouldn’t pass muster in any actual scientific analysis: 'excessive,' 'binge,' 'anxious.'

Mental diseases are not really understood the way, say, liver diseases are understood, as a pathology of the body and its tissues and cells. Researchers understand the underlying structure of very few mental ailments. What psychiatrists call a disease is usually just a label for a group of symptoms."

"What psychiatrists call a disease is usually just a label for a group of symptoms"? True, but on the other hand, there are more than 100 different types of "cancer" with many different causes.

And although there has been relatively little progress in finding cures for Alzheimer's disease, for example, there is often a genetic predisposition to some of these "psychiatric disorders," which in turn provides hope for better medicinal treatments in the not too distant future.

Brooks continues:

"All of this is not to damn people in the mental health fields. On the contrary, they are heroes who alleviate the most elusive of all suffering, even though they are overmatched by the complexity and variability of the problems that confront them. I just wish they would portray themselves as they really are. Psychiatrists are not heroes of science. They are heroes of uncertainty, using improvisation, knowledge and artistry to improve people’s lives."

Psychiatrists are "heroes" of any kind? The readiness of a certain psychiatrist to "play God," resulted in a gross misdiagnosis of someone very dear to me, which very nearly destroyed that person's life.

Psychiatrists as a group? Maybe they're not as bad as politicians, but my experience has been that compassion goes lacking in our brave new world.

Brooks concludes near the end of his opinion piece:

"If the authors of the psychiatry manual want to invent a new disease, they should put Physics Envy in their handbook."

"Physics Envy"? It sounds like "penis envy," which has gone the way of the dodo. Meanwhile, it appears that "narcissistic personality disorder" is also on its way out, given that everyone in Washington, from the president on down, seems to suffer from it.

Narcissism is as common in the 21st Century as bubonic plague in the 14th Century, but there is no solution in sight, and Brooks's "Heroes of Uncertainty," also often contaminated, have no magic bullet.


  1. Ah psychiatry ... Don't get me started.
    I'll be kind ... I'll assume kindly that they are needed and helpful when there is a real psychiatric problem, but ...
    I have no doubt that it's not normal that most American born I know have gone through their, relatively speaking privileged (no war, no emigration etc.) lives using psychiatrists as crutches.
    Personally, I did spend 15 minutes in a session, after which I announced that I was uncomfortable and left. I did pay for the entire hour.
    My particular beef is with psychiatrists' contribution to the death of history. Few things irritate me more than idiotic psychobabbling of illiterate masses. Who needs KNOWLEDGE of facts when some "universal" platitudes can be offered in any circumstances. For example, one of my areas of knowledge is Jewish history/antisemitism and I did spend a number of years STUDYING and thinking. Imagine how I feel when I am offered "the other" "the envy" and similar explanations of .... everything, everywhere every time.

  2. DSM-5 has the final solution:
    Social Communications Disorder, characterized by "inappropriate responses".

    The point? Social engineering to achieve 100% Stepford People.

    No one in America cares about what you know or what you can contribute. Style over substance always wins.