Monday August 20, 2007
Dear Alice Miller,
In January you answered a reader’s mail called Mental illness and “supportive families” where you wrote: “[W]e have so many diagnostic labels that help to disguise the abuse. And this is exactly the reason why people MUST become severely ill: they are in a total isolation with their pain.” I couldn’t agree more!
The worst history of having been diagnosed I heard last week. It shows that diagnoses can even be worse than “just” character murder. I had a conversation with a woman I first was introduced to last year. Now she told me about her sister. Her sister had been sexually abused in her childhood. She had contact with professionals, who first labelled her with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, then Bipolar Disorder. After the second diagnosis she got treatment only for that one, her trauma history wasn’t interesting. Later she got a third diagnosis: Dyssocial (Antisocial) Personality Disorder. The pain caused by this diagnosis became so intense, that the young woman (25) took her own life.
The sister gave me permission to use this story if I wanted. She said her sister definitely not was a “psychopath”. She also said, knowing many people who had psychiatric experiences, that she was convinced that many have committed suicide because of getting a stigmatizing diagnosis. I’m sure she’s right.
And why are the very few trauma-related diagnoses not “popular”? In an article from 1994, “Sex Bias in the Diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder” by Dana Becker and Sharon Lamb (in Professional Psychology: Research and Practice), social workers, psychologists and psychiatrists were asked to diagnose a client who had been sexually abused and had “symptoms” for both BPD and PTSD. BPD was rated higher than any other diagnosis. PTSD was the fourth highest rated.
How can anyone label such labelling “professional and adequate help”?
S.T., Oslo, Norway
AM: Thank you for your important letter. I think that these are not exceptions and that many illnesses are PRODUCED by diagnoses, which conceal the true causes of the symptoms, and are treated with drugs that produce new symptoms. It is good that you write about and publish your letters wherever you can do it.