February 10, 2010

Suffering from MEAD?

Category: Humor,Psychiatry — Biella @ 4:30 am

If I told you that you suffer from MEAD you might think (if you are an anthropologist like me) that you suffer from an obsession with a plump anthropologist of said name who popularized the discipline bringing home tales of Samoan teenagers who did not seem to suffer from the angst and anxiety of their American counterpart. Or you might think MASSIVE EMAIL ANXIETY DISORDER, which is a DSM diagnosis I invented last week and thus have minimized the work that the American Psychiatric Association will have to put into updating their DSM (you’re welcome).

So I have penned down its major characteristics and effects so that you too can identify with some other inner pathology that might mark your daily life and being (you’re welcome)

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association currently defines Massive Email Anxiety Disorder (MEAD) disorder in the following way. 

Please note that while this definition of MEAD is the most definitive and clearly produced to date, there are several potential problems with this definition that will hopefully be addressed by the task forces, editors, and research coordinators of the association as time progresses. 

The Current DSM-IV  Definition (Abridged):

A.  A persistent fear of one or more ‘emails situations’ in which an author of an email worries about the status of a sent email. The individual fears that the tone or content of a message was misinterpreted or that an email never arrived to its correct destination. Alternatively, they worry excessively about why they have not received a response.

B.  Exposure to the feared situation almost invariably provokes anxiety, which may take the form of a situationally bound or situationally pre-disposed Panic Attack.

C.  The person recognizes that this fear is unreasonable or excessive.

D.  The feared situations are avoided or else are endured with intense anxiety and distress. Alternatively the person suffering from MEAD shuffles over to their partner or office-mate to talk (obsessively) about the nature and possible effect of the email, sometimes for hours, sometimes even for days.

E.  The avoidance, anxious anticipation, or distress in writing email, which interferes significantly with the person’s normal routine, occupational (academic) functioning, or social activities or relationships, or there is marked distress about having the phobia.

F.  In individuals under age 18 years, the duration is at least 6 months.

G. The fear or avoidance is not due to direct physiological effects of a substance (e.g., drugs, medications) or a general medical condition not better accounted for by another mental disorder.

Problems with the DSM Definition of Massive Email Anxiety Disorder

While this definition is clearly the most definitive and precise official definition produced so far, “Massive Email Anxiety Disorder” has only been officially recognized since 2020, and the problem did not become adequately explained until the 2015 version of the DSM. Thus, the definition of MEAD disorder is becoming clearer and more precise with each edition. 

Written in “honor” of current revisions for the DSM, expected to be published in 2013


May 4, 2009

Mad developments

Category: Mad Movement,Pharma,Politics,Psychiatry — Biella @ 3:13 pm

There is a lot of madness when it comes to psychiatry. One recent example of madness–perhaps insanity– is this faux peer review journal. At least there seems to be a growing counter-current in medicine that wants to sever the umbilical cord between doctors and drug companies as well as a vibrant grass roots move to embrace a different politics in and of madness.

May 19, 2008

Medical Genetics is Not Eugenics

Category: Disability Studies,Psychiatry,Tech — Biella @ 4:29 am

One of the most interesting debates concerning new technologies is whether human enhancement technologies have any resemblance to the older practice of eugenics. One of my favorite articles on this subject is by The Case against Perfection, which simply stunned my students (and they are pretty hard to stun).

Recently, the Chronicle of Higher Education published a couple of articles on the topic, and I wrote a response to one of them, (which as you will see, irked me some) here. While I agree with the author that medical genetics is not eugenics, it is still worth our while thinking through today’s genetic and reproductive technologies through the eyes of historical instance of eugenics.

May 24, 2007

Just Say No

I am in SF now and saw that the local weekly just published a really good article on those who steer clear of psychiatric drugs, called Just Say No. It is quite good, check it out.

May 15, 2007

Money Talks

Category: academic,Pharma,Politics,Psychiatry,Tech — Biella @ 7:32 am

This is somewhat old news but these two articles are worth linking here and linking together for they convey nicely, in the words of AC/DC, how “money talks” and also how numbers can talk about how money talks.

One article is Senators who weakened drug bill got millions from industry from USA Today and the other is on a topic that has been receiving a lot of play in the NYTimes Psychiatrists, Children and Drug Industry’s Role.

I am not so much a researcher of numbers in so far as I don’t produce them, and think it is a good idea to cultivate a healthy skepticism of them, but I do appreciate what they can tell us. I think the article in the NYTimes is particularly insightful because it is based on “public reports of all drug company marketing payments to doctors” in the state of Minnesota, the *only* state that requires this access. The authors of the article are careful to hedge and qualify their findings, but many of them do suggest that the more money a doctor gets, the higher the likelihood they will prescribe more meds and of a certain class. Hopefully more states will pass such legislation and more research will be done.

This is my favorite quote from the article

“There’s an irony that psychiatrists ask patients to have insights into themselves, but we don’t connect the wires in our own lives about how money is affecting our profession and putting our patients at risk,” he said.”

April 16, 2007

On the Caveat, Better than Well, and HOT Latino Bodies

Category: Academic,Books/Articles,carl_elliot,Politics,Psychiatry,Tech — Biella @ 12:07 pm

So, yes these three topics, the caveat, the book Better than Well and Hot Latino Bodies are related. You just have to stick with this long post to find out why…


As I progress slowly but surely with my book manuscript, I am really coming to see how a dissertation and book are quite different creatures. I think one of the most important and noticeable differences is that a book has a lot more short caveats and warrants than necessary in a dissertation.

I think there are two main reasons for this. One of which is has to do with your committee members, the primary and (usually only readers) of the dissertation. They are a lot more prepared and adept to ingest complex ideas than lets say undergraduate students, because that is what they are trained to do and because most of them are much more familiar with your topic because they have been with it nearly as long as you have. In a dissertation you are also allowed to (and often expected) to go on and on, ad naseum, with your theoretical explanations that help substantiate what are otherwise shakier, initial claims. For various reasons, for a book, especially if you are not some FFT (Famous French Theorist), you are strongly encouraged to dump most of the theory in favor of providing a streamlined version (which really, is preferable of course, but extraordinarily hard to pull off).

I have been thinking a lot of the caveat because I have just finished re-reading a book “Better than Well” that is not only fascinating in its own right but brings the caveat to a stunning art form. The author, Carl Elliot, is a philosopher/bio-ethicist and the topic of the book, broadly speaking, examines how the rise of new enhancement technologies (prozac, plastic surgery, sex change surgery) is bound tightly with longer-standing, distinctly American ideals, such as the autonomous, self-directed and authentic self.

It is one of those rare books that can be read by your father, aunt and uncle, tossed over to a willing teenager, and assigned in all sorts of college courses and still manage to impress all sort of academics in all sorts of fields. Part of the reason for his broad appeal is because the book is thoughtful and clever and so chock-full of really interesting examples that you are hooked and want more of his tasty intellectual Kool-Aid. So while he has one main focus, which largely triangulates between enhancement technologies, selfhood, and consumerism, in the process of exploring them, you learn about a bunch of other really neat topics: suburbia, the history of cosmetics and childhood, odd social phobias, long-gone and culture- bound disorders like dissociative, fugue, amputee wanabee’s, extreme blushing, and so much more. Along with crystal clear writing, he also throws in some classically funny lines, my favorite one currently being: “For better or worse, suburbia has come to stand for something than can be survived only with minor tranquilizers.”

Another reason he manages to pull this Houdini-like feat is because of his judicious and artful use of the caveat, which is really the only way he can bring forth complex ideas, in a fashion that is much more accessible than is usually done in a purely academic book.

To take on example, when he introduces the usefulness theories of Thorstein Veblen, an economist usually known (and only barely), by academics, he opens in the following way, because in many ways, if you just decided to pick up a copy of Veblen, his style make strike outdated:

“Reading Veblen nearly a century after he wrote The Theory of the Leisure Class, it is not easy to know which parts of the book to take seriously. It comes off as equal parts intellectual theory, social satire, and crackpot polemic,” (and goes on for a full more paragraph) and then says “Where Veblen is prescient, however, is his sense that in a consumption economy, consumer goods would become markers of who we are.” p. 103

In this way he can say, “ok Veblen is useful because of this specific reason” and yet communicate to his academic readers that he knows the limits of Veblen.

No matter how much I love the book, and now matter how I think his use of the caveat is stunning, there are two problems I have with it. In one case, I think he fails to give one of the most important caveats.

He paints a picture in which all of American society is ensnared in dominant social codes and mores (which somehow all point back to consumerism and capitalism and a desire to improve the self). While there are points he seems to back away from that sort of statement, and a few rare points where he ascribes his insights to the group I think he should mainly be sticking to—white, liberal-leaning middle-class Americans—I think there are more instances where he paints a picture of America as far more uniform than it actually is. According to his account, no one is immune to the forces he so eloquently writes of and so in the end the environmentalist activist, is as caught up in the traps of consumer life-style as is the investment banker on Wall Street.

It lead hims to say such statements as

“Many Americans today learn who they want to be by listening to a Methodist minister or a civics teacher but by watching advertisements for The Gap.”

Ok while he bit about the civics teacher may be true, any consideration of lets, say… the religious right in this country, which, as we know from recent elections, don’t represent a teeny-tiny itsy-bitsy minority (and for a fascinating glimpse into the world, I would recommend Jesus Camp), would bring holes, and sizable ones, to that sort of statement. Many Americans do in fact listen to their minster. And this does not only help explain the deep divisions in this country, but I bet because they do listen to their pastors, their notions of the good, the self, etc, are going to be pretty distinct from those he describes (and gain see Jesus Camp to get at this point)

It is not that the religious right exists outside of the web of consumerism we are all at least partially caught in, and indeed, a lot of the new Protestant religious movements here and elsewhere as Jean and John’s Comaroff’s work has shown can be all about securing a more robust middle class lifestyle. But we must remember that even something as powerful as consumer capitalism or dominant ideals of an authentic, beautiful self—though powerful and more often than not work in concert with each other—do not quite have the power to efface all meaningful difference— between lets say a white, “liberal” middle class woman and let’s say, many Latinos, who, do, let’s not forget, comprise a huge portion of America. Many Americans have a very different picture of the ideal female body than the picture he explores, which is skinny and lanky and forever youthful (and hence the appeal of botox and lipo). Let me provide just one example drawn from the annual Puerto Rican day parade and this hold true for the one held either in NYC or Chicago.

Along with a blizzard of Puerto Rican flags, what you may also notice is the abundance of really bright spandex being donned on ladies that are not by any standard of the word “slim.” I am sure that any middle class lady (you know, the type who spends 5 days of the week working out at the gym, wishing her thighs were just a little thinner), would feel morally repulsed in seeing that sort of image, that is if they even bothered to go to the parade. But among many Puerto Rican men (not all) a sexylicious and extra-curvy, meaty Puerto Rican woman, decked out in tight & bright spandex, will like bring on a loud “HAY MAMITA, ven acá”…………………” which roughly translates into “You are HOT… Like I want you NOW.”


February 19, 2007

When More Is Not Enough

Category: Academic,Mad Movement,Pharma,Politics,Psychiatry,Research,Tech — Biella @ 12:28 pm

When More is Not Enough is not only clever parody but has such a nice fusion of content and form….

February 13, 2007

Survivor’s Voice

Category: Academic,Mad Movement,Pharma,Politics,Psychiatry — Biella @ 8:25 am

The Radical Journal of Psychcology has just published a series on the Survivor’s Voice and a lot of news continues to develop on the Eli Lily/freedom of speech case

February 5, 2007

Pharma and psychiatry joined at the hips, positive or negative?

Category: Academic,Pharma,Politics,Psychiatry — Biella @ 9:50 am

Are psychiatry and big pharma joined at the hips ? And if yes is this a bad thing?

In a recent speech, the new president of the APA sees the relationship as a little too cozy for comfort: “We have allowed ourselves to be corrupted in this marketplace with lucrative consulting to industry, speaker panels, boards of directors, and visits from industry representatives bearing gifts.”

Some industry representatives and psychiatrists were not moved and responded with their assessment statement:

Unless another model is proposed and shown to be effective, we believe that the strong partnerships and collective contributions of academic, clinical, and industry-employed psychiatrists and neuroscience researchers can best maximize our potential to deliver the highest quality of psychiatric care to all who suffer from mental illness.


It is nice to see the debate occuring within the field itself and I hope that it continues, especially with some hashing out of other models. And here is one of the most interesting ones in that it takes physical activity and cultural expectations quite seriously.

January 20, 2007

The Fury over Zypexa continues, unabated

Category: Academic,Mad Movement,Pharma,Politics,Psychiatry — Biella @ 9:15 am

In the last few weeks the news, no really uproar, over Eli Lily’s suppression of data over Zyprexa, has in no way waned.

The EFF, thankfully, is on board, defending the rights of citizen-journalists to link to the Eli Lily documents and the New York Times continues with what is actually really impressive coverage and the news is making its way into other publications
(and here too.)

It now looks like (and I knew this would happen, it was just a matter of time) that state prosecutors are turning up the heat. Zyprexa is a priceeeeeeeeey drug, truly expensive, and since a lot of folks given the drug are on disability or medicaid, the state has been picking up the tab, so a few states, like Illinois and Vermont may be launching civil and criminal investigations, in part to recup their money.