Feature Articles

Diagnosing in the Dark: why the DSM should see the light

01/08/2009

Homosexuality used to be a mental disorder.  Shyness still is.  So is not being shy. 

The Diagnostics and Statistical Manual - the "Bible of Mental Illness" consulted by psychiatrists - is no stranger to controversy.  What gets classified as a mental illness differs every decade, and impacts millions of lives. 

But a new kind of controversy is surrounding the newest version of the DSM - before it's even been written.  A group of prominent psychiatrists, including previous DSM authors, are saying that the new edition is being written under a cloud of secrecy - which is unscientific, inadvisable, and possibly immoral. 

Without full disclosure of who's writing what, and why, they say, everything from personal prejudice to conflicts of interest could be codified as "best practice."

"(T)his unprecedented attempt to revise DSM in secrecy indicates a failure to understand that revising a diagnostic manual—as a scientific process—benefits from the very exchange of information that is prohibited by the confidentiality agreement," wrote Dr. Robert Spitzer,  who chaired the writing of the DSM II in 1980, in a letter to his colleagues. 

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Can Humanistic approaches solve a crisis in geriatric care?

01/07/2009

As millions of older Americans watch their retirement savings get wiped out by the financial crisis, medical experts are warning that the system of geriatric health care is in a crisis all its own - one that money can't solve. 

Dr. Atul Gawande, a surgeon and Associate Professor of Public Heath at Harvard, told the New York Times this week that the number of geriatricians has declined significantly over the last 20 years, while the number of Americans 65 and older is on track to double in the next 20. 

The Washington post called this a crisis, noting that seniors make up just 12 percent of the population, but account for 34 percent of all prescriptions and 38 percent of all emergency medical service responses. 

Even if we had the money to spend, experts agree, the system of care we've set up - too few doctors who can spend too little time with patients whose conditions are often complicated - won't adequately care for them.  We need to do better.

A Humanistic approach to health care, which some practitioners have been applying to small groups, may offer a better approach - and that care is often community-based, focusing on patients' human needs as much as their medical needs.

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Somebody helps those who help themselves: study shows connection between religion and self-control

12/29/2008

According to a report to be published in the upcoming issue of Psychological Bulletin, people who attend church regularly - or at least have internalized a strong commitment to religious values - will have an easier time keeping their New Year's resolutions.  

It's not just that it takes self-control to sit through religious services.  Even accounting for selection bias, according to this blog post in the New York Times, people who attend services end up with more self-control, even if they didn't start with much. 

Further, people with strong religious convictions are better at resisting temptation (if that's what one wants to do with it). 

But what's most intriguing, from a Humanistic perspective, is the way in which the study does - and doesn't - correlate "religion" and "spirituality."

 

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