Dangerous Psychiatric Fads

This article by Dr. Allen Frances (psychiatrist) has been published on Pyschotherapy.net. It begins:

“A sad and fairly ubiquitous aspect of human fallibility is that we are extremely suggestable suckers for fashion. Psychiatry is no exception — its history is littered with recurrent fads. The specific details vary, but the pattern is always pretty much the same.

Dangerous Psychiatric Fads

1. Charismatic promoters identify a new and plausible diagnosis; do some second-rate research suggesting it ‘exists,’ write a lot of papers, and give a lot of workshops and conferences.

2. Media picks up the story, sensationalizes the ‘new findings,’ and transforms lousy evidence into a vital new discovery.

3. Whenever a potential pill treatment is available, Pharma marketing goes into an extravagantly financed, high-gear marketing mode — enthusiastically hyping the diagnosis and the medication in every possible venue.

4. Benefits of the new diagnosis and treatment are widely publicized; risks and harmful unintended consequences are neglected.

5. Primary care docs are especially targeted because they do most of the prescribing of psych meds, have the least training, and aren’t given adequate time to do careful evaluations.

6. Patients are seduced by drug ads to ‘ask your doctor’ about the diagnosis and the pill to treat it. ‘Asking your doctor’ usually results in getting the medication.

7. These familiar patterns of fad development are now greatly speeded up and given immediate worldwide distribution via social networking on the internet.

8. Diagnostic rates rise exponentially in a very short time.

Some dangerous fads in medicine have lasted thousands of years (e.g. bleeding, purging, popular meds that turned out to be poisons). But most fads come and go fairly quickly once the risks of treatment become obvious and the over-promised benefits don’t pan out. As the excitement surrounding one fad wears off, suggestible clinicians and patients become enthusiastic about, and eagerly await, the next fad …”

You can read more from here.

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