Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Don't Be Happy, Worry

Most of you are probably too young to remember the Bobby Mcferrin song "Don't Worry, Be Happy" from the 80's, but this Salon piece argues that's exactly what's happened, thanks to the explosion of Big Pharma and the psychiatric-industrial complex (the "axis of evil" consisting of the media, big pharmaceutical companies, and the psychiatric profession).

Reviewing several new books on the topic, from Charles Barber's "Comfortably Numb: How Psychiatry Is Medicating a Nation" to Ronald Dworkin's "Artificial Happiness: The Dark Side of the New Happy Class," and Eric Wilson's "Against Happiness: In Praise of Melancholy," writer Jerome Weeks recognizes the "counterrevolution by therapists, sociologists and humanists" who are finally coming in from the wilderness to counter the explosion of mental "disorders" and numbers of people on psychotropic medications today.

As I always do when I write on this topic, none of this is to minimize persons with serious depressive disorders or full-blown psychoses, but as Weeks notes, it's not the serious mental illnesses we spend the billions on R&D and advertising on. "The psychotics aren't benefiting much from the wonder drugs. It's the neurotics who pay cash."

That may be a bit harsh, but it makes the point. The psychiatric "happy pill" has replaced cognitive or "talk" therapy from psychology. Treating the symptoms rather than the cause of abnormal feelings has become the new norm, with most Americans either not wanting to invest the time ("We like quick fixes. We like drugs,") or insurance companies not wanting to invest the dollars by paying for it. "Try getting your company's health insurance to cover the expense of counseling. Odds are, it won't. But it'll pay for pills."

I could quote from this article ad infinitum, but do yourself a favor and read it. As the labeling theorists have been arguing for years, pharmacology as a form of social control is a growing but dangerous trend, and it's getting worse by the moment.

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