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We need a new paradigm for dealing with our psychological ills

Researchers recently published a paper in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology that puts into question many of the evidence-based techniques being used in psychology to help people with psychological disorders. This raises an additional question about our knowledge and capacity to manage and treat the seemingly increasing number of psychiatric disorders diagnosed in our society today. Sadly, 1 in 4 Americans say they would never see a counselor, and there are many people who go to councilors yet never get any help or relief from their ailment.

Our current society is diagnosing more psychological disorders than anytime in history with some claiming every single person will get a psychological disorder at one point in their lives. Pharmaceutical companies are doing their best to come to the rescue with a pill to solve all the ills – which is yielding them billions of dollars in annual growth between anti-anxiety and anti-depression drugs alone. Psychologists are doing their best to come up with therapies that they hope to help. In both cases, medication and psychological therapies, they sometimes work. But many of these therapies are following a reductionist ideology that may have good intention, but may be missing the point.

Looking back through history at some common psychological ills (and I do not mean schizophrenia, manic depression, psychopathy, or other genetic based illnesses that can plague a person for life), instead, I mean the more common disorders that seem to affect many may people without any clear and obvious mechanism that triggers it…Like the old diagnosis of female hysteria. At the time, and I am not joking, the treatment was basically calling a doctor to come and manually sexually stimulate a woman – preferably to orgasm. (and yes, this was for married women, and their husbands never protested!). Later, as doctors were not so happy with this job, they invented the vibrator. Basically, the reductionist solution to a diagnosis of hysteria was manual stimulation of the clitoris by a medical professional -and then that job got outsourced to a machine.

I wonder if the example of the treatment for hysteria does not represent the situation we are in today. If hysteria was successfully treated with manual stimulation of a woman’s sex organ, then the REAL treatment would have likely been emotional and physical connection with her husband, maybe a loving and supportive community of close friends, maybe the sense of having meaning and purpose in life. And if that may be the case for the old psychological diagnosis of “female hysteria”, could it also be a solution for todays depression and anxiety epidemic?

This may seem obvious, and you may wonder if this is scientifically supported. Let me assure you it is. Dr. Dean Ornish outlines in his book “Love and Survival” many scientific experiments that show that being part of a community that loves and supports you is connected not only with health and wellbeing, but also is a preventative measure against heart disease, cancer, depression, anxiety, etc. the studies go so far as to show that having a caring community allowed women with breast cancer to double their survival rate and time compared to those on standard treatments. DOUBLE…and there was no medicine involved.

What this means is that having a strong, loving community around you with quality relationships is an important part of living a life that you love – even if you are an introvert. We also know that no matter who you are, when you have a strong purpose and meaning in life, you draw people to you – people who can make up your community, people who you can build strong quality relationships with along the common ground of mission and purpose in life. And we also know that we are suffering from a crisis of meaning and purpose in life. Maybe we need a new paradigm in psychology, maybe alignment can lead to a larger solution that overall reduces the incidences of depression and anxiety in a way that reduces the need for drugs, reduces the need for therapy, and increases the overall benefits to society.

Do you agree? Do you disagree? Comment below.

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