"Fortunately analysis is not the only way to resolve inner conflicts. Life itself still remains a very effective therapist."
Alan Schatzberg, M.D., outgoing president of the APA, has presented a solution for what he sees as a major problem besetting the DSM-5 process, that is, excessive coziness with the common folk and their darned opinions:
"One thing we ought to consider is using more technical language. Our cardiology colleagues don't talk about heart attacks but use the term myocardial infarction. Hematologists are not attacked for including leukemia in their nomenclature, and they wouldn't think of giving it up for "way too many white cells disorder" (WTMWCD)! Why shouldn't we follow their lead? To my view, bulimia would be a better term than binge eating disorder. The latter was attacked by a prominent psychiatric critic as suggesting he could be diagnosed with the disorder after a heavy Thanksgiving dinner. Our language should indicate the severity of the possible impairment. Simiarly, temper dysregulation in children sounds too much like temper tantrums. They are not the same, but the use of the language is problematic. We need to be more serious about our terminology. In the end, we will get it right."
Yes, this is what ails contemporary psychiatry, the lack of abstruse terminology that will mystify and impress the hoi polloi (which wouldn't be a bad term for a mental disorder, come to think of it). Time to haul out the Latin and German dictionaries. American psychiatry's cardinal sin has been false modesty, and an unwillingness to stick its fingers into as many pies as possible. We need to be more aggressive in educating the purblind populace about the grave severity of their mental states, crying out for the local psychiatrist. We need to exaggerate the degree of our actual knowledge, for the good of our patients of course.
What is noteworthy about myocardial infarction, though, and countless other terms from other disciplines, is the useful work that the names do in indicating specific and potentially modifiable pathophysiology (in this case, the death of cardiac muscle cells). Unfortunately it's hard to think of a single psychiatric diagnostic term that has that level of specificity. Are neurologists wringing their hands over the term stroke, which seems to enjoy both wide general use and a meaningful clinical designation?
This sounds like the kind of throat-clearing that might lead a psychiatrist to wear a white coat, which is about as useful on a shrink as it is on an accountant. Not really, of course, as perhaps a white coat would helpfully accentuate the placebo effect, as would the casual use of dumbfounding (if insignificant) expressions like amygdalar aberration, or hippocampal ischemia, or limbic encephalopathy. (Unless the patient starts laughing). Yes, melancholia sounds way cooler than depression, but apart from those of us who enjoy cool words, what would the former accomplish beyond self-importance?