I Think I’m Coming Down With Something.

August 11, 2009 at 11:46 am 2 comments

USA Today reports that Raymond DiGiuseppe, a researcher and psychology professor in Queens, NY seems to think we haven’t gone far enough in our efforts to pathologize the human condition. DiGiuseppe asserts that anger should be included in the DSM-V, which by way of its very presence in the book would classify it as a disease. That is the function of the DSM — to identify thought patterns, emotions and behaviors as diseases thus putting them within the increasingly invasive scope of psychiatry. 

“Clinical psychology really targets depression and anxiety and really leaves out many human experiences or emotions,” he says, noting that other emotions such as disgust, envy and jealousy are also ignored.

   There is the problem. There is a very urgent push, led by the APA and backed by Big Pharma to do away with any distinction between disease and emotion. In light of the fact that they’ve never had to prove the presence of disease, nothing really keeps them from reclassifying emotion as disease–so they do. If we’ve gotten clinical depression and generalized anxiety in, why not go for disgust, envy and jealousy?

   I’m not saying anger isn’t difficult for some people to manage or that choosing to have people guide them through that anger would not be a wise choice in many cases but that’s a far cry from calling it a disease. I’m calling into question the notion that there is a biological cause to that anger and a chemical cure for it. I’m calling into question any system which would pathologize all human emotion and the legal, social and economic implications that would go along with it.

   Do we honestly think anger is a disease — that it’s a biological malfunction? Of course not. We know why we’re angry. We often have good reasons to be angry. From a bad day at work to oppressive political regimes and many things in between, we have good reasons to be angry. Anger is very human and a necessary component for redirection and change.

It destroys interpersonal relationships. It impedes sexual functioning. It negatively effects marital relationships. It negatively affects goal attainment,” he says.

DiGiuseppe says research shows that angry people make less money, are less likely to be promoted, almost always have poor romantic relationships and are more likely to be in the criminal justice system.

   I refuse to accept the idea that the threshold between emotion and disease is a social one. If you are to assert that something is a disease, you must show that it is a biological malfunction, not that it can impede your job performance or disrupt your marital bliss. It is an especially dangerous road we are walking down and in the face of involuntary participation in the psychiatric system it is a dangerous road many are being corralled down. Justified anger is a very important part of free thought. It is the fight in you — and the way things are going, it looks like you may need it soon.


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He’s Amongst Us… Long Weekend


  • 1. Leah  |  August 11, 2009 at 12:48 pm

    Stellar post Aaron – thanks for digging this find up.
    What a raw, naked exposure of what drives the system.
    Let’s classify and pathologize every human emotion.
    Anger is dangerous. Anger is passion. Harnessed and channeled, it is a powerful motivator and indicator that something must change.

    We don’t want people to be taking action to change the system, now do we?

  • 2. KHorn  |  August 11, 2009 at 1:40 pm

    As annoying as I tend to find evolutionary psychiatrists I am glad they are slowly creeping into the field. While traditional psychiatrists tend to view everything as a maladaptation to be “fixed” evolutionary psychiatrists tend to view everything as an evolutionary adaptation. Hopefully someday they find a comfortable middle ground, though I’m not too optimistic.

    Also, I wonder how they differentiate between angry people making less money and people who make less money being angry.



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