Diagnosis and Statistical Manual IV or rather the DSM IV has eight hundred and eighty-six pages filled with lists of mental illnesses. I cross off five. It’s close to impossible to not strike off even one of these disorders, so are we all mentally ill? Or do psychiatrists love to over-diagnose us?

Don’t take it from me, take it from Jon Ronson, British journalist and a certified psychopath spotter. Psychopath spotter? Seems intense but in actuality a psychopath is rather normal .According to statistics one out of a hundred people are psychopaths ; meaning you at least bump into at least three ‘psychos’ in a day depending upon the jumble of people around you .Perhaps you could be one too .Psychopaths aren’t the crazy lunatics running down the streets wanting to spill build .Instead they are normal people driven by capitalistic means and just want to have the best no matter what .You could call them egoistic and unempathetic or a leader and a thinker depending upon how positive one can be . In Ronson’s 2012 Ted Talk, he mentioned that he rang up the Citizen Commission on Human Rights (CCHR), a non- profit organization who, as they describe, are the watchdogs responsible for protecting the basic human rights and restrain the use of abusive practices in Psychology and Psychiatry. Now let’s hear what Ronson had to say about them, this time without the sugar coating, “A crack team of Scientologists who are determined to destroy psychiatry wherever it lies .” 

That opinion changed when the other line was connected. Ronson asked them if they could prove to him that psychiatry is a pseudo-science which can’t be trusted. Next thing you know Ronson was heading to Broadmoor, an asylum for mentally insane criminals. Ronson was led in through the tight security and the numerous gates to the peach wellness center where he was going to meet a patient. The door opened and obese men in sweatpants drifted in, but then walked in a man of good shape in a pinstripe suit. Meet Tony.

Tony had gotten into a rather large fracas at the age of 17 and was going to be sentenced to five years of imprisonment. While he waited in his cell for his trial, his roommate gave him the idea to fake madness so then he would be sent to some isolated asylum with nurses tending to him, where he could act normal again and then walk free. But the problem is Tony, faked madness too well. He was so good that they sent him to the nation’s most secure asylum for serial killers and those who just can’t help themselves. The sentence was for five years like I mentioned before. Tony had been in Broadmoor for fourteen years.

Tony sat in front of Ronson, shook his hand and told him his story. He had tried to convince the doctors and nurses multiple times that he is completely sane but they wouldn’t believe him. They are always looking for non-verbal affirmations to prove he is not normal which then strikes new questions. How do you sit like a sane person? How do you dress like a sane person? How do you prove that you are sane? It’s a lot easier to fake insanity than to prove sanity.

Later that day after departing from Broadmoor, Ronson called up Tony’s clinician, asking him why they still have Tony in Broadmoor since he seemed perfectly normal to him. The clinician said they know that Tony is not mad but they also know what Tony actually is. A psychopath. Using cunning, manipulative methods to escape his sentence. Then wearing something different from the other patients and not coming out of his room are all indications of self-grandiose. Striking off some of the key points of the list made by Robert Hare. Hearing this, he decided to keep his distance from Tony. Until one day he picked up Tony’s calls. Ronsan explained he didn’t pick up since everyone says Tony’s a psychopath. Tony sighed and told him that it’s not true. He justified himself by saying he doesn’t get out of his room because he is stuck in an institute with serial killers and that he is scared to go out in case he bumps into them. He said that the way of diagnosing one of psychopathy is incorrect itself. See, on the list, there is cunningness/manipulative and lack of remorse and empathy. If he says he does feel remorse, the diagnosers will say that’s exactly the cunning ways he would lie in just to score low on the list. There is no winning.

We are living in a time where overdiagnosis is a serious issue. Children who are just being kids are given the labels of ADHD, ones who throw tantrums are said to show child bipolarity and artists with borderline personality. The problem isn’t with just labelling them, it is medicating them. Giving young children drugs to ‘calm them down’ or rather ‘cure’ them is, in reality, doing anything but that.

Becoming a psychiatrist means that you are given the power and trust to diagnose your patients correctly and not by screening and not cherry-picking the craziest, maddest edges of a personality which are jutting out and letting the of the normal information which doesn’t strike off the list fall on the floor. You don’t weave the definition of a person by the one eccentric gem in a personality dismissing the majority pebbles. The goal is not to misdiagnose a person by gripping onto the qualities which fit the list. 

When you get the results of a patient, it’s not going to be just a yes or no to the disorder. There will be grey areas, which the majority of people fit into. The shades which aren’t necessarily black or white. Just like Tony. He fits into the grey area on the psychopathy list. But what I am sorry to tell you is that when it comes to the general outlook to mental health, there is rarely a grey area. Mothers, for instance, can either get unnecessarily worried about the child whenever an incident occurs and give an extra dose of the medication. Then again, on the other side of the spectrum there the conservative mothers who cast a blind eye upon the importance of mental health, hence leaving the child unable to get the treatment they need. This is just an example. It can be anyone’s perspective on mental health.

Our own mindset is the only thing we can change, fortunately, one must change oneself to change the world. We can bring a change by just our words. So why not start here?

About Snehal Srivastava


  1. Yo this is actually pretty good. Looks like one of those articles that I see on my SAT reading section and they ask us to annotate.
    Yours truly,
    Future NYU roomate

  2. Snehal this is amazing ! Show this to mrs sharma she will appreciate it and it is really well articulated too

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