Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Avoidable Death of Rebecca Riley and Good Luck!

In the tenth chapter of The Psychopath Test, Ronson focuses on the impact of the DSM upon the diagnoses of mental disorders and whether or not these diagnoses are legitimate. The original publication of the DSM included few mental disorders compared to that of today. The immense volume of disorders that was added to the DSM came to be after a series of particular events. It began with the psychologist David Rosenhan, who believed that psychiatry was practically a joke. He and seven of his friends faked mental illness and were admitted to mental hospitals for treatment. The ploy was to destroy the image of psychiatry and expose the inaccuracy of diagnoses that had been performed, which Rosenhan accomplished through the publication of a book of his fake experience as a mental patient. Upon the ruin of psychiatry, Robert Spitzer volunteered to edit the DSM-III. With the role as editor, he hosted many editorial meetings in order to create the new edition of the DSM. These meetings allowed mental health professionals to come together and create new disorders with lists of symptoms, making diagnosis much easier. With so many new diseases the DSM-III was hundreds of pages longer than before!
Despite the new ease associated with diagnosing mental disorders. The question became whether or not these diseases were real, or just aspects of human behavior. A major example of this can be found in the case of Rebecca Riley. She had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder at four years old. One night when she couldn't sleep because of a cold, her mother gave her more medication. The next morning, Rebecca was dead, from an overdose. This case caused many to question the legitimacy of the diagnoses presented as a result of the DSM, especially in the case of children.
The end. The final chapter had so much that went on in it, but I am glad that Ronson tied up all the loose ends. It's good to see that he finally realizes how dangerous the power given him through Bob Hare's checklist really is, along with the dangers involved in the many checklists of symptoms in the DSM. I'm also glad that he spoke up to Bob Hare, and told Hare his opinion of what the checklist does to people. I feel as though Ronson learned a lot through his experience of writing this book, going from the extreme of "everyone's a psychopath if they fail the checklist" to "there's a gray area in there somewhere." I totally agree with his newest ideas on psychopaths as well, particularly in the case of Tony, who wasn't crazy enough to be a mass murderer, but still crazy enough to be a "semi-psychopath" in Ronson's words. Overall, I really enjoyed this book, though I was quite surprised by who turned out to be the person that sent all the manuscripts. I was not expecting it to be Petter. That's for sure!

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