The Illusion of Inclusion – Roadblock #5
Conflicting Campaigns & Content
There is confusion among the general public regarding the terms used by medical professionals, along with a lack of understanding as to how diagnostic “labels” relate to one another. This problem is exacerbated by media professionals, including those representing a variety of parallel special interest groups and associations within the medical community, who are unclear as to the correct use of the vocabulary. As a result, various advocacy groups have unintentionally disseminated content; which sadly, perpetuates and reinforces the stigma of “mental” illnesses, “mental” disorders, “mental” disabilities, and “mental” impairments. Here are a few examples from around the Web.
1. Autism Advocates
An organization within the autism community (mistakenly) claims…
“Several older theories about the cause of autism have now been proven false. Autism is NOT a mental illness, and individuals with autism do NOT choose to behave differently. Autism is not caused by bad parenting. Furthermore, NO known psychological factors in the development of the individual have been shown to cause autism.”
Individuals experiencing “mental illness” do NOT “choose” to behave differently either. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is the result of differences in the way the brain functions. Science has begun to demonstrate that addiction, depression, dyslexia, eating disorders, and anxiety, among others, are also due to physical differences in the way the brain functions…just like the symptoms representative of ASD. In fact, autism IS a mental disorder, and as such, is included within the DSM. (The DSM is the manual used by clinicians and researchers to diagnose and classify mental disorders. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) published the most recent edition, DSM-5, in 2013. The APA is a national medical specialty society whose more than 36,000 physician members specialize in the diagnosis, treatment, prevention and research of mental illnesses, including substance use disorders.)
While there may be “psychological” factors involved in a small percentage of cases of mental illness…such as those caused by PTSD or trauma (which can eventually alter the way the brain functions, or cause physical changes, similar to those believed to occur with other mental disorders); a mental illness NEED NOT contain a “psychological” factor.
The term “psychological” appears to be a value judgment placed on individuals, who have been traumatized or abused…as if they should just “get over it;” discounting their pain. One might say something similar to individuals with autism, who constantly stim or rock to calm themselves down. If they could control the environment around them, perhaps they could eliminate that behavior, but it is not so simple. And for those, whose mental illness does in fact have a “psychological” factor…they cannot change their past or erase painful abuse from their memories; they can only seek support and validation (not judgment), which serves to alleviate their pain.
2. Learning Disability Consultants
The Learning Disability Association of America (LDA) – Ask the Expert section of the website posts…
Question: “Is a learning disability considered a mental illness?”
Answer: “No, a Learning Disability is NOT a mental illness. Learning Disabilities are neurologically based. They result from “faulty wiring” in specific areas of the brain. These disabilities impact an individual’s ability to process and to use information and, thus, can impact this individual’s ability to be successful with reading, writing, math, and other learning tasks.”
Like autism, the criteria and characteristics for diagnosing learning disabilities appear in the DSM, because a Learning Disability IS considered a “mental disorder.”
3. LGBT Activists
Initiatives intended to reduce the stigma of homosexuality, and increase public awareness about the “dangers” of conversion therapy proudly proclaim, homosexuality is “NOT classified as a mental disorder.”
Unfortunately, this serves to reinforce negative bias toward individuals with mental disorders.
According to the Just the Facts Coalition,
“The most important fact about ‘reparative therapy,’ also sometimes known as ‘conversion’ therapy, is that it is based on an understanding of homosexuality that has been rejected by all the major health and mental health professions. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Counseling Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the American School Counselor Association, the National Association of School Psychologists, and the National Association of Social Workers, together representing more than 480,000 mental health professionals, have all taken the position that homosexuality is NOT a mental disorder and thus is NOT something that needs to or can be “cured.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has illustrated that
Homosexuality is NOT a mental disorder but homophobia, stigma, and discrimination have negative effects on the health of MSM (men who have sex with men), lesbians, and other sexual minorities. The negative effects of social marginalization can be found in adolescent and adult MSM; for example, research has shown that MSM and other members of the LGBT community are at increased risk for a number of mental health problems.
The distancing of the LGBT community from the field of psychiatry reinforces the stigma of mental illness, and is a disservice to those members of the LGBT community who actually struggle with mental illness. In fact, research demonstrates homosexuals are at greater risk for developing a mental illness than heterosexuals. Rates of depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, phobia, self-harm, suicidal thoughts, and alcohol and drug dependence have been shown to be significantly higher in the lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals surveyed.
While homosexuality does not necessarily cause harm, studies have demonstrated that sexual preference can have a genetic component involving the brain. There is evidence that differences in the structure, and variations in the way the brain receives and releases sex hormones; contribute to “atypical” sexual behavior.
The language, which facilitated the removal of homosexuality
from DSM-III in 1973, requiring a “disorder” to cause harm, or an increased risk
of harm, was recently dropped from the definition of mental illness
(prior to the publication of DSM-5).
Given this change in the DSM, questions are again being raised as to whether homosexuality is a “mental illness.”
LGBT advocates would be far more effective, if they disseminated information related to relevant genetic and biological discoveries, rather than distinguishing the origins of sexual and gender differences from those of “mental illness.”
For additional information regarding the history of homosexuality as disease, the DSM-5, and/or The social construction of ‘mental illness’ click here.
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© October 2015