Even Witch Doctors Don’t Diagnose From Afar

In a recent Rolling Stone magazine feature entitled The Madness of Donald Trump, Matt Taibbi asserts that “karma is a bitch,” and evil America got what they deserved in President Trump, a man he feels is a “perfect representation of who, as a country we are and have always been: an insane monster.” Fortunately for evil America, Taibbi has a plan to remove President Trump from office. While Robert Mueller continues his investigation into matters ranging variously from Trump’s dismissal of former FBI chief James Comey, and allegations of collusion between Donald Trump and Russia, Taibbi and his cabal of left leaning psychiatrists and journalists are crafting a new narrative in case Mueller’s investigation fails: a declaration of Trump’s “inability to discharge duties” under Section 4 of the 25th Amendment.” The linchpin of Taibbi’s argument is that President Trump is a “malignant narcissist,” a mental disorder which is based on narcissistic personality disorder, but with a pinch of paranoia, a sprinkle of sadism, and a dash of anti-social behavior.

Taibbi loathes America. His Zinn- infused history from below is one I am quite familiar with. He asserts that we are a “bloodthirsty Mr. Hyde nation that subsists on massacres and slave labor while we sit stuffing ourselves on couches blathering about our American exceptionalism.” While it might be true that Taibbi loathes America, he hates President Trump even more, and as his confusing and ill-conceived diatribe unfolds, the only thing that I am convinced of the weakness and desperation of his arguments, and the possibility that Taibbi, and not President Trump, needs psychological or biomedical treatment. The article is adorned with pictures of a bulging eyed President Trump grimacing in a strait jacket, and in his verbal attack against him, he spends an inordinate amount of time using words and phrases like “mad as a sack of bees,” “crazy,” “insane,” “damaged,” “unwell,” “delusional,” and “loony-bin administration” with no regard for the pain he is causing to those struggling with mental illness on a daily basis, the corresponding stigmatization those words bring on, or the possibly that speaking about mental illness in this manner makes those that suffer from it less inclined to seek appropriate treatment. Taibbi’s argument is premised on what he believes to be the sanctity and infallibility of the diagnoses contained in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, (the manual that lists Internet Use Syndrome as a mental disorder)and the expert testimony of John Hopkins trained psychologist John Gartner who has “managed to gather more than 62.000 signatures from self- described mental health professionals who attest that Trump manifests a serious mental illness that renders him psychologically incapable of competently discharging the duties of President of the United States.” Taibbi also claims that “everyone with half a brain and a recent copy of the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) knew the diagnosis on Trump the minute he entered the race.” Clearly that statement neither effuses confidence in in our modern-day health professionals, nor gives credence to his claims and the “experts” he references. On the other hand, Taibbi’s thoughtlessness in constructing his argument does lay bare the phenomenon of the decline of once highly esteemed professions and institutions, and our current society of comedians, musicians, politicians, celebrities and ordinary citizens feeling confident in rendering armchair diagnoses of President Trump’s alleged mental illness, claiming the latest New York Times or CNN news items to be fake news, or weighing in on matters of constitutional law while gathered around the office water cooler. It is important to note that not everyone is as convinced of the validity of the diagnoses contained in the DSM as Taibbi and Gartner are. According to Thomas R. Insell, the director of the National Institute of Mental Health, “unlike our definitions of ischemic heart disease, lymphoma, or AIDS, the DSM diagnoses are based on a consensus about clusters of clinical symptoms, not any objective laboratory measure.” He continued, “this would be equivalent to creating diagnostic systems based on the nature of chest pain or the quality of fever.”Correspondingly, Gary Greenberg, a psychotherapist and one of the most outspoken critics of the DSM asserts:

The American Psychiatric Association owns the DSM. They aren’t only responsible for it: they own it, sell it, and license it. The DSM is created by a group of committees. It’s a bureaucratic process. In place of scientific findings, the DSM uses expert consensus to determine what mental disorders exist and how you can recognize them. Disorders come into the book the same way a law becomes part of the book of statutes. People suggest it, discuss it, and vote on it. Homosexuality was deleted from the DSM by a referendum. A straight up vote: yes or no.

One year ago, in my final class as a Columbia University undergraduate majoring in sociology, I enrolled in The Science of Psychology under the tutelage of a most wonderful instructor who ultimately helped me to rethink my negative perceptions of psychiatry. I decided to enroll in the class because a classmate advised me that it might be the easiest way to fulfill my science requirement. The class was largely based in neuroscience, and proved to be quite a challenge for me. There is a concerted effort among the new breed of professors and students in the field of psychology to rely on science to add validity to the methods and perspectives that psychologists employ, thus elevating the respectability of the discipline. After one semester, I experienced a remarkable volte-face. I learned that there is a lot more behind human thoughts and acts than the theory that every female desired a penis, and every male wanted to give his mother a thorough rogering. As part of our class participation grade, my classmates and I had to answer questions with our iClickers,which were projected onto a large screen. One question asked if the mental illness of a friend or family member significantly affected our lives. The histogram that depicted the results was powerful; the lives of 95 percent of my class of over 160 students were impacted in varying degrees by mental illness, but perhaps none more impacted than my own. I told my professor after class that the failure of psychiatry to properly diagnose and treat my late sister from the time period between 1975 and 2007 was the reason for my disdain for psychiatrists, the diagnoses contained in the DSM, as well as the reason why I was her student at fifty-four years of age. While i would rather not publicize my family’s problems and relive the pain, i will simply say that my family and i had to raise my niece, because my sister was so ill, she was unable to do so herself.  Over a thirty-year period, my sister was treated by five different psychiatrists, each with a different diagnosis. While the medications prescribed changed monthly, her condition only worsened. I understand the unique challenges of treating mental disorders, and I have neither commented negatively about psychiatry, nor spoke publicly about my family’s struggles with mental illness. It took the travesty of mental health professionals attempting to circumvent the Goldwater Rule to publicly diagnose President Trump without his consent to get me fully engaged, and sufficiently enraged.

The take home message of Taibbi’s Rolling Stone article is that the ascendancy of Donald Trump to the White House is in many ways a reflection of “who, as a country, we are and always have been: an insane monster.” Furthermore, to Taibbi and the #notmypresident/#resist factions, Donald Trump is a symptom of a terminally ill society. In contrast, those who support the President believe that America is infirm, but it is only Donald Trump who can render the social prescription that can restore an America that has strayed too far from the path that our Founding Fathers set for us. The question as to whether President Trump is fit to perform his duties should be decided by either the investigative process currently underway, or by the political process in 2020, not by a psychological fitness examination conducted by a biased and partisan Congress under the auspices of a handful of rogue psychiatrists who hate President Trump, and whose  behavior violates long established American Psychological Association standards.Hatred is never a good motivation for a diagnosis, especially on a patient that you have never seen in a professional capacity. Even witch doctors don’t diagnose from afar. Anyone with half a brain and a copy of the DSM would most likely agree with me.

Published by anthony senatore


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