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The Blue Pill or Red Pill

Morpheus
Morpheus
Laurence John Fishburne III, born July 30, 1961, is an American film and stage actor, playwright, director, and producer. He is perhaps best known for his roles as Morpheus in the Matrix science fiction film trilogy. | Photo: Warner Bros. | Laurence Fishburne, Actor, African American, Suit, Morpheus, The Matrix,

The DSM-V Dilemma

"This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill - the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill - you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes." Morpheus, The Matrix
Doesn't it seem as though almost everyone you know has had some kind of stress/mood/coping disorder and searching for relief? Now there seems to be so many different kinds of pills to soothe the soul and numb the spirit. Don't get me wrong, I have been saved on occasion by "running for the shelter of mother's little helper' to get me through trying times. But when I did this, there was only one pill to take, like Prozac, and now it seems there's a whole concoction of pills being pushed, aptly called the 'cocktail'. So a few friends are taking this synergistic symphony to create new a synapsis in the brain, and bypass some of the outmoded mechanisms that are causing distress, or confusion or ADD, ADHD, or whatever. It seems as though these new cocktails are taking over my friends and acquaintances like a tsunami. At dinner the other night my dear friend showed up looking super thin and gaunt. Her shrink added something new to the 'cocktail', a pill called Viibrid to help add more energy or something. First she gained tons of weight and was complaining that the pills were making her fat, then she lost a ton of weight and is now too thin. (I would like to get some to lose weight like she did.) It's been over a month and she's down to her lowest weight since college. At sixty three she looks too thin. So now she's got a pill to sleep, a pill to wake up, a pill to focus, a pill for depression and a pill to synergize the other pills and the new pill for even more "vibrant" energy. What's happening here?

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) has just released the new Psychiatric Diagnoses "bible" categorized by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition. Better known as the DSM-V, the manual is published by the American Psychiatric Association and covers all mental health disorders for both children and adults. It also lists known causes of these disorders, statistics in terms of gender, age at onset, and prognosis as well as some research concerning the optimal treatment approaches.

DSM-V is a manual for Mental Health Professionals to use for sorting, understanding, and treating mental disorders. The underlying truth is that it is designed to help determine what pharmaceutical drugs the patient will be administered for treatment and medical insurance reimbursement. So to get drugs and insurance claims paid, you have to have a certain diagnosis and 'label' to fit in with the system.

Much of the diagnostic information on these pages is gathered from the DSM-IV. Since the 1970s, the DSM has been the gold standard. But now, with the May 22 release of its fifth edition, the DSM-5, there is controversy because it is losing some of its support. For the first time, The National Institutes of Mental Health, the world's largest mental health research institute, has shifted its funding support away from the DSM, citing a "lack of validity" and diagnoses based on "clusters of clinical symptoms, not any objective laboratory measure."

The controversy stems from new diagnosis: Asperger's syndrome was removed from the autism spectrum disorders and new conditions were added like social anxiety disorder and somatic symptom disorder, which concerns critics who say it could label patients who are physically sick as mentally ill.

While the mental health institutions are adding more labels to otherwise common place life experiences, Eric Maisel's Depression: How to Shed Mental Health Labels and Create Personal Meaning is shedding a new light onto this subject and points out that "In recent decades, much of the unhappiness inherent in the human condition has been monetized into the disease of depression and related "disorders." Maisel persuasively critiques this sickness model and prescribes a potent new approach that updates the best ideas of modern psychology. The result is a revolutionary reimagining of life's difficulties and a liberating model of self-care that optimizes our innate human ability to create meaning and seize opportunity ' in any circumstance."

"Man is not fully conditioned and determined but rather determines himself whether he gives in to conditions or stands up to them. In other words, man is ultimately self-determining. Man does not simply exist but always decides what his existence will be, what he will become in the next moment. By the same token, every human being has the freedom to change at any instant. Therefore, we can predict his future only within the large framework of a statistical survey referring to a whole group; the individual personality, however, remains essentially unpredictable." Victor Frankl

"Bereavement, which has always been excluded from the mood disorders, will become a mental disorder. Mild forgetfulness will become a mental disorder ("mild neurocognitive disorder"). Your child's temper tantrums will become a mental disorder ("disruptive mood dysregulation disorder"). Even preferring one of your parents to the other will become a mental disorder! (Yes, really: "parental alienation disorder").

"DSM catalogues symptoms and classifies certain constellations of symptoms as indicating the presence of a disorder. That works when only extreme symptoms are considered as indicative of mental illness. The extreme symptoms of schizophrenia and bipolar -- hallucinations, delusions, and cognitive impairments -- are enough to tell us something is wrong, even if we don't know what it is. But with each iteration of DSM, the APA has gathered less extreme symptoms together and decided they also indicate the presence of illness. The number of diagnoses exploded and normality -- like having too much grief when someone dies -- has now gained a label and a billing code." DJ Jaffe, Director of Mental Illness Policy Organization

"A psychiatric diagnosis is a milestone in a person's life. Done well, an accurate diagnosis is the beginning of increased self-understanding and a launch to effective treatment and a better future. Done poorly, it can be a lingering disaster. Getting it right deserves the kind of care and patience exercised in choosing a spouse or a house." Allan Francis, Professor Emeritus, Duke University

While there is great hope for the future, we are still stuck dealing with 20th century models to manage and cure disease. Some breakthrough studies, such as those conducted by The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) neuroscientist Dr. Thomas Insel, suggest that "mental disorders are biological disorders involving brain circuits ... and mapping the cognitive, circuit, and genetic aspects of mental disorders will yield new and better targets for treatment."

The medical establishment is dealing with contentious issues of diagnosis for the masses, yet there are a few treatment centers for those in need where a privileged few can be treated.

With a personalized team they will evaluate the patient's progress and design a specific treatment plan daily. While the mental institutions may be a last resort, there are also community-based non-profit organizations that have been providing quality residential and community mental health services to thousands of people with mental illness.

Since 1979, The Alcott Center for Mental Health Services, located in West Los Angeles provides a comprehensive range of housing, treatment, and education programs to serve adults of all ages, their families, and the community. The Alcott Center aims to create a safe environment that promotes individual growth, recovery, independence, and personal empowerment by addressing the whole person's needs. Services include an independent living program, permanent and transitional residential services, medication support, therapy and rehabilitation services, case management, crisis intervention, integrated mental health and substance abuse treatment, socialization opportunities, consumer run activities, a creative arts program, and family education and support.

Kurt Cobain
Kurt Cobain

Kurt Donald Cobain, February 20, 1967 – April 5, 1994, was an American singer-songwriter, musician and artist, best known as the lead singer and guitarist of the grunge band Nirvana. On April 8, 1994, Cobain's body was found after a self-inflicted shotgun wound to the chin. The coroner estimated Cobain have died April 5, 1994. |
Another pioneer in residential clinical care is Bridges to Recovery, a mental health residential treatment center located in the posh neighborhoods of West Los Angeles, including Holmby Hills. Over the past 10 years Bridges to Recovery has developed a unique internationally recognized licensed treatment model to provide an alternative to traditional hospitalization.

Licensed by the state of California, the clinic aims to treat a variety of mental health disorders, which include Mood Disorders, Anxiety Disorders and Personality Disorder covering Depression, Bipolar, Borderline and Trauma. Their website has a comprehensive list of treatment protocols that serve the greater good.

"In a comfortable luxurious residential setting we provide cutting edge mental health treatment using successfully proven methodologies."

They provide a meticulously individualized personalized program that targets the highest quality results. Being in beautiful, comfortable, life enhancing surroundings creates an ideal environment to heal. The multidisciplinary experienced and committed mental health doctors and professionals provide highly regarded assessment and treatment. In addition to weekly team meetings to continually assess and implement effective clinical strategies, the patients are prepared to return to a healthy and productive life.

In a world where controversy exists at every level, it is no wonder that the state of mental health institutions is in flux. Bridges to Recovery could be a model setting for the treatment centers of the future. The road to wellness is paved with a focus on the individual patient that can be treated in a healing environment surrounded by nature and the comforts of home.

While the medical establishments are struggling over labels, others are discovering new pathways to treating the human condition.

In Eric Maisel's latest book, Natural Psychology: The New Psychology of Meaning, he introduces readers to natural psychology, a brand new psychology that presents a vision of life and a program for living. This is based on Dr. Eric Maisel's breakthrough exploration of meaning as a psychological experience. This highly praised, powerful book introduces a new way of looking at life that integrates contemporary intellectual threads, rejects the tactics of modern psychiatry, and presents a picture of human life that you will actually recognize."

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Updated Apr 22, 2017 6:01 AM EDT | More details

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