Friday, November 15, 2019

The Problem with Make-Believe Clinicians

A few words of unimpeachable wisdom from Philip Galanes, etiquette columnist at the New York Times.

The issue is simple. A woman believes that her sister is on the autism spectrum. Said sister has never been diagnosed with any form of autism, but the letter writer wants to help anyway. 

Here is the letter (boldface mine):

My sister is in her 50s. She suffers (and has benefited) from autism spectrum disorder. It’s given her brilliance at the expense of social functioning. Sadly, she is not aware of her A.S.D. or formally diagnosed. But she gets furious if anyone challenges her; she is unable to forgive small slights and doesn’t perceive other people’s intentions correctly. I think she would benefit from understanding her condition, but she brushed off my suggestion that she is on the spectrum. Meanwhile, she is alienating herself from our family with her behavior. I feel like shouting: “You have Asperger’s! Embrace it!” How can we fix this situation?

Now, Galanes offers the perfect response:

Make-believe clinicians who hand out diagnoses like Tic Tacs are dangerous. Unlike you, professionals have been trained to assess A.S.D. And pathologizing your sister based on an amateur understanding of autism not only hurts her, but also people who live with the disorder.

Brilliant-but-difficult does not always mean Asperger’s syndrome. Moody is not a synonym for bipolar. And sadness is not depression. I know it’s become common to offer such analyses (maybe to make ourselves feel superior?), but they trivialize the disorders and perpetuate the stigma of them. Please knock it off!

Everyone is now a clinician. It’s a sign that we live in a therapy culture.

I would add that not a few clinicians are incapable of differentiating between “brilliant-but-difficult” and Asperger’s syndrome. And that not a few clinicians are incapable of differentiating sadness from depression. In the latter case, we note, with some chagrin, that a goodly part of antidepressant medication is prescribed by general practitioners. Make of that what you will.


UbuMaccabee said...

Autism is an invaluable intersectional victim card. I strongly recommend getting one, or at least make preparations. It’s not that difficult to manipulate the clinician and get your Tic-Tacs.

Combined with being a woman and a self-defined binary of some kind or another, she could be > black cis man. Crazy white lady > black crybaby! And HR will treat you like fine china; you’re like royalty. Crazy can be formidable with the right intersectional combination; she could even run for office in Los Angeles.

For white men, I strongly recommend you get your GloboHomo card first, then add on the autism diagnosis afterwards or they may suspect something is amiss and search your house for guns. A large donation to your local socialist party is always appreciated.

I’m a kangaroo.

Sam L. said...

I am not a clinician, nor do I play one on TV/Radio. Nor in what I call my "real life", such as it is.

Tilcut Hassayampa said...

If the sister cannot take criticism, and is always rights, that sounds like a narcissistic trait. But then again she may be just sick and tired of her sister's attempts at diagnosis.