A Mental Illness Epidemic? Or Hype Masquerading as Journalism?

Are we in the midst of an epidemic of mental illness?

My dictionary would suggest the word "epidemic" is appropriate when discussing some that is "excessively prevalent" or "characterized by very widespread growth." Is mental illness really growing as much as some critics claim?

It's with some interest to examine the claims of those who say we're in some sort of "epidemic" of mental illness. But owing to their sloppy premise, loose research efforts, and illogically connecting dots that have little to do with one another, I find it a hard claim to swallow.

In fact, research shows that prevalence rates for mental illness have actually declined somewhat from 1994, making it hard to understand where some are coming from about this "epidemic" nonsense.

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7th Canadian Conference on Dementia

Dementia, a term used to describe declines in mental ability, such as memory and thinking, that interfere with daily life, affects millions of people in the U.S. and Canada. Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s are just two of the debilitating diseases encompassed by the term dementia.

From October 3-5, 2013, a world-renowned faculty of national and international speakers will gather at the 7th Canadian Conference on Dementia in Vancouver, British Columbia.

The conference offers a wide range of topics related to dementia. There will be opportunities for stimulating debate, interactive workshops and exposure to the latest research via oral and poster presentations.

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Comment Announcement


Biomarkers: Can Blood & Brain Scans Help with Future Depression Treatment?

Are predictive biomarkers the wave of the future of depression treatment?

Recent research has demonstrated -- in small pilot studies -- that brain PET scans and, in a separate study, blood proteins, may act as important biomarkers for determining whether an antidepressant or cognitive behavioral therapy might be the best treatment for a person's clinical depression.

Such an indicator would be a potential boon for those seeking treatment for depression. Currently, depression treatment is characterized by a trial-and-error approach, with most professionals recommending most people get both medications and psychotherapy.

These studies point to the possibility that, in the future, we may have a more reliable way of directing people to the treatment that's going to be the most effective for them.

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Eating Disorders

With Obesity, A New Disease is Born: Its Profound Implications for Psychiatry

A new disease was discovered the other day -- or rather, one was created.

There is no “lab test” for this disease, nor is there an X-ray, MRI, or CT scan that can detect it. It is diagnosed on the basis of a mathematical formula that many believe is simplistic and poorly-validated.

Sometimes this “disease” results in metabolic abnormalities, sometimes not.

Many clinicians view the decision to recognize this disease as another example of “medicalizing” a problem stemming from the person’s “life-style” -- not from a specific pathological process. In fact, the declaration that this condition is a “disease” was the result of a vote among a group of doctors at a medical meeting in Chicago.

In effect, this condition became a disease through a show of hands.

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Project ECHO: Can We Teach Physicians to Better Diagnose Mental Disorders?

I'm conflicted about the announcement of Project ECHO's expansion last week. The ECHO Institute was founded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the GE Foundation and the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center to help primary care physicians do a better job with common, chronic condition diagnosis and treatment via Project ECHO.

On Friday, they announced a new initiative focusing on mental health treatment. The new effort will involve having academics train primary-care physicians to strengthen and better coordinate their mental health care.

It's the right focus, because family doctors and general practitioners prescribe the majority of antidepressants in this country, and are often the first-line professional to see a patient who may have a mental health concern.

But then the director of Project ECHO, Sanjeev Arora, spoke.

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Not in the DSM-5: Internet Addiction & Parental Alienation Disorder

Disappointing to some professionals, I'm sure, is the fact that two disorders didn't make it into the DSM-5 at all -- not even in the chapter "Conditions for Further Study."

Those two lonely disorders? "Internet addiction" and parental alienation disorder.

This is a nice respite from the hype surrounding both these concerns and reaffirms what we've been saying here for years -- these are not mental disorders. Do some people have a usually-temporary and almost-always transitory problem with figuring out how much time to spend on the Internet? Sure they do -- it's just not a disorder-level concern.

And the evidence is simply too sparse for "parental alienation disorder," which I believe has propagated more for legal than clinical reasons.

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How Dr. Joyce Brothers Helped Shape Me as a Therapist

This guest article from YourTango was written by Jamie (Simkins) Rogers.

I've been feeling nostalgic since the recent death of Dr. Joyce Brothers the other week. I grew up watching Brothers on shows like Donahue and The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson while my grandmother crocheted afghans beside me.

I knew I wanted to be a therapist from a very young age, having analyzed my own familial relationships ad nauseum (I was a weird kid). Back then, I loved Dr. Brothers' wit, grace, class and charm.

Today, I respect her as the rarity she was during her prime: an accomplished female in the field of psychology.

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DSM-5 Released: The Big Changes

The DSM-5 was officially released today. We will be covering it in the weeks to come here on the blog and over at Psych Central Professional in a series of upcoming articles detailing the major changes.

In the meantime, here is an overview of the big changes. We sat in on a conference call that the American Psychiatric Association (APA) had in order to introduce the new version of the diagnostic reference manual used primarily by clinicians in the U.S. to diagnose mental disorders. It is called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and is now in its fifth major revision (DSM-5).

James Scully, Jr., MD, CEO of the APA, kicked off the call by remarking that the DSM-5 will be a "critical guidebook for clinicians" -- a theme echoed by the other speakers on the call.

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Did the NIMH Withdraw Support for the DSM-5? No

In the past week, I've seen some incredibly sensationalistic articles published about the upcoming DSM-5 and a letter recently released by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). In the letter by Dr. Thomas Insel, director of the NIMH, wrote in part, "That is why NIMH will be re-orienting its research away from DSM categories."

Some writers read a lot more into that statement than was actually there. Science 2.0 -- a website that claims it houses "The world's best scientists, the Internet's smartest readers" -- had this headline, "NIMH Delivers A Kill Shot To DSM-5." Psychology Today made the claim, "The NIMH Withdraws Support for DSM-5." (The DSM-5 is the new edition of the reference manual used to treatment mental disorders in the U.S.)

So is any of this true? In a word, no. This is science "journalism" at its worse.

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APA Sued Over Misleading Membership Fees — Again

Nearly three years ago, we reported on the kerfuffle over psychologists who were upset to find that the "mandatory assessment" fee they thought was, well, mandatory turned out to be entirely optional. The fee was being paid to the American Psychological Association (APA), the professional guild association for psychologists, to fund a legally separate organization, the APAPO, tasked with lobbying (mostly at the state level -- not the federal level).

A class-action lawsuit against the APA was thrown out earlier last year on technical grounds (but with prejudice, suggesting a new lawsuit has a harder road to climb).

Despite that, a new lawsuit was recently filed in federal court in California "accusing the group of misleading its members into paying a fee used to fund its lobbying arm as part of their annual dues."

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NAMI Illinois Rejects Psychologists’ Attempts to Gain Prescription Privileges

"Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results."
~ Rita Mae Brown

Ya have to admire psychologists who endlessly lobby state legislatures for the right to extend prescription privileges to their profession (with a little additional training). They won't take repeated defeat as a sign that perhaps their efforts are... insane?

Illinois is the latest state to hand psychologists seeking prescription privileges a defeat, with NAMI Illinois siding on the side of not supporting the bills in front of the Illinois legislature. After intense lobbying by both sides of this issue, they concluded, "NAMI Illinois opposes SB 2187 and HB 3074 in its current form to expand prescriptions privileges to psychologists."

When will psychologists learn?

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