Every month, I run across a newspaper or online article about how such-and-such mental disorder is an “epidemic.” I can rattle off the disorders that have been paired with this word so far this year — bipolar disorder in children, ADHD, depression and anxiety, a lesser form of schizophrenia… and the list goes on.
In fact, it makes me wonder whether there’s really any journalism done any more, or if it’s just, “Let’s pair one expert’s opinion with the word ‘epidemic,’ and there’s our story!”
The problem with a word like “epidemic” is that, sans a legitimate base comparison, you can always throw this claim around with little regard for actual scientific data. Because if you actually look at the scientific data, you’d be hard pressed to use the word “epidemic” for virtually any mental disorder.
And while this isn’t particularly new news to me, it may be news to many who’ve been following the hype and melodrama surrounding the DSM-5 revision process over the past week, as the annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association took place.
With so much scrutiny being placed on the DSM-5 revisions, many mainstream news articles written about the revision process make the claim that — if left to their own druthers — the DSM-5 will bring on a plague of new epidemics of mental disorders across the board.
But of course, these are just the “Sky is falling” opinions of people who have their own agendas.1
Enter a breath of fresh air to help bring perspective to using the word “epidemic” when it comes to any mental disorder. Our colleague Dr. Ron Pies has written a research-based article over at the Psychiatric Times to look at the prevalence rates of different mental disorders over time to answer the simple question, “Is there really an epidemic of psychiatric illness in the US?”
The answer may surprise you.
- Agendas rarely examined by those journalists writing the articles. [↩]