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Tony Zizza

Don't We All Have A Personality Disorder?
By Tony Zizza
Dec 10, 2008 - 11:32:08 AM

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Next to complaints from the atheist community that Christmas in any way is being observed on federal property, the Associated Press reporting that yet another segment of the population is mentally ill, signals the official start to winter looms large.

On December 2nd, posted this from the AP: "1 in 5 Young Adults Has Personality Disorder, Study Finds." Isn't this lovely? So when college students come home from the holidays they won't just arrive with laundry and a need to gain weight, they'll come home with an alleged psychiatric disorder requiring what else but - drugs. This time of year is getting so predictable I almost can't stand it.

First of all, this subjective study of "face-to-face interviews about numerous disorders with more than 5,000 young people ages 19 to 25" was not conducted by psychiatrists. It was conducted over seven years ago by - are you ready to laugh? - trained interviewers. Yes, trained interviewers. Oh, this is great. I guess psychiatrists are so worn out after another long and profitable year of writing prescriptions, they had to hire out help for the latest public awareness campaign concerning young people supposedly not getting enough mental health. Spare me.

This study was "funded with grants from the National Institutes of Health, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the New York Psychiatric Institute." Go ahead and tell me these entities are not tied in some way to Big Pharma and a desire to see more of the population labeled with a subjective mental disorder, and I'll show you that my 401k this year lost absolutely no value. Spare me again.

It's always the same old song. About 20-25 percent of a specific segment of the population is said to have a mental disorder after a study has been completed and published years later in the Archives of General Psychiatry. There's a big media hoopla over it. Sometimes a mental disorder is called something else so that it can be paired up with a psychiatric drug that has recently gone through a minor change. And of course, a good 75-80 percent of the newly afflicted are supposedly not getting the help they need.

Have you noticed that the refrain "not getting the help they need" is growing louder and louder these days when it comes to mental health? You can blame the passage of the Mental Health Parity Act on that. Dr. Sharon Hirsch, a University of Chicago psychiatrist, seems to think 75 percent of college students are not getting the mental health they need. She wonders out loud that if these were diabetic college students, "Just think about what would be happening on our college campuses."

Quite frankly, I don't want to think about what's happening these days on college campuses. I bet the encouraging phrase, "Suck it up", will soon be deemed hate speech. The PC police were running rampant back in 1994 in my college days. They're completely stuck in the mud now. I can't imagine what it's like for a young student who says they're either a conservative or libertarian. I mean, some college students and their administrators are just so tolerant of folks who visit like Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity or David Horowitz.

So, it's quite unthinkable to dare say on a college campus that many of the problems students experience have more to do with transition and growing up, than they do a psychiatric diagnosis that almost certainly comes with a psychiatric drug. In fact, I don't know one college student, myself included, that didn't have some rough times in college. We're all the better for it, and that we got through it without being labeled mentally ill.

Here's the thing. To some extent, we all have a personality disorder. No big deal. We all have a dynamic and a passive self. It's called being different from others. Having your own unique personality shaped by your choices and experiences is what makes you the human being that you are. Or could be. Or would have been.

To have "trained interviewers" - trained by whom? - shape millions of college students and other young people to the point where they wind up labeled with a subjective mental disorder is just about as disturbing as AIG and GM crying poor mouth to Congress.

Tony Zizza is a free-lance writer who lives in Hermitage, TN. He writes frequently about psychiatry and popular culture. Email:

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