Saturday, December 10, 2005

The Difference Between Sadness And Depression

A new article in the Washington Post, found here, reports that there are psychiatrists who are beginning to "Ponder Whether Extreme Bias Can Be An Illness", to which I say: wha-huh?!?

They cite, as their first example, a forty-eight year old man who turned down a job because he feared a coworker might be gay. This homophobe has such a problem that he's "socially isolated". His shrink calls him delusional. I ask myself, "Why? What's the deeper cause of this delusion? Is it chemical? Is it social? Neither? A combination of both? Is it genetic or environmental?" All these questions spring to my mind within reading the first two paragraphs of this article. The article never answers these questions.

It goes on to claim that mental health professionals run into this kind of thing all the time. Imagine that. In a country that is filled with an aging population that can still remember segregation and the days when gay men were just "a little light in the loafers" if you know what I mean, wink-wink-nudge-nudge, shrinks see extreme racism, homophobia and other prejudicial behavior. Remember, this is the country that produced the Ku Klux Klan! Hell, my grandfather once asked me if I liked "chocolate milk" as much as "regular milk" because I spoke to a black girl in his presence. My father at least had the good graces to roll his eyes and look embarassed.

According to the WP, it seems that several pyschiatrists are thinking of adding "pathological bias" to the next edition of the DSM. Excuse the pun, but that's madness. I'll admit that one culture's mental illness is another culture's norms, but the argument that the DSM is just a reflection of our society is fallacious at best. Despite the article's left-handed assertions to the contrary, there is some science behind psychiatry.

And I find it personally offensive that anyone would try to equate homophobia with clinical depression. The first has what I would call anthropological causes, the second physical ones. In some cultures, homophobia is nearly unheard of, but depression can be found in every culture around the world, past and present. The article does touch on that, by citing Paul J. Fink, former president of the APA (found at, heh, shrinks with a sense of humor, gotta love it) as saying, "I don't think racism is a mental illness, and that's because 100 percent of people are racist," and "If you have a diagnostic category that fits 100 percent of people, it's not a diagnostic category."

I couldn't agree more with the Fink. Clinical depression, schizophrenia and various other mental disorders have very real causes. Sometimes these causes are purely chemical, sometimes it's more complex than that. But there are underlying causes that are either understood or at least beginning to be understood. "Pathological bias" is a catchy phrase that covers up the worst segment of our society's dregs with a pity label. I'm all for politeness in public discourse, believe it or not, but the ultra-PC crap has got to stop. If you're a racist in this country, in this day and age, it's not pathological. It's not an illness. You're just a racist shithead who either can't see past his own indoctrination or else likes being a racist. You never hear anyone say, "You know, I understand that black people are just as capable, patriotic, trustworthy and loyal as us white folks, but I just can't bring myself to trust 'em."

No, what you hear is, and I wish to the non-existant gods that I had made this phrase up, "Damn darkies always get the best things while we have to scratch for what's ours."

Pathological bias, indeed.


Anonymous Sami said...

fucking right. I've gotten into quite a few brawls over racial commments made by some asshole to friends. I just have zero tolerance for that ignorant bullshit behavior

7:55 PM  

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Fire does not wait for the sun to be hot,

Nor the wind for the moon, to be cool.

-- the Zenrin Kushu