Being Normal

This post appeared first on Ruby Day’s blog.

Last week we were discussing real and unreal diseases. We have learned that there is a disease mongering of socially unwanted phenomena with the reputation of addictions. These addictions, most of them of a behavioral nature, are based upon an a prior assumption to be real disorders. There is no unambiguous scientific report about these purported diseases, though: many studies are tendentious, or pointing up just correlations instead of causal connections, or are just poorly designed. (For an increasing list of poorly designed studies and retracted papers see this blog.)

What already is an annoyance when scientists deliver bad science becomes a political issue when whole social entities are becoming the target of puppet masters. All the worse when complacent scientists (and those who pretend to be scientists) and politicians are going hand in hand. Because the consequences could also be touching you. Let me give you an example.

From its founding in 1948 up to 1992 the World Health Organization (WHO) was listing homosexuality as mental disorder in its health care classification system ICD-9. Under the token 302.0 homosexuality was classified as ego-dystonic sexual orientation. This definition disappeared finally with ICD-10. WHO’s influence on jurisdictions, political decisions, and social acceptance can’t be emphasized enough.

Pseudo-scientific quacks and conservative politicians are keeping on making people believe that homosexual behaviour is still a mental aberration. Groups with often evangelical background have built the ex-gay movement, offering so-called conversion therapies, that means: a cure for a ‘disease’ called gayness.

In a normally mad world nobody needs to care about this. But in our madly mad world fundamentalist groups have gained a lot of political power. And it has still to be proven that the core of our civilian and educated societies has the composure to tolerate social subgroups: our cultural varnish is just a thin layer. There are many people looking for victims, because they need this assurance there are people even weaker than they are.

Reflexes of times long ago are still existent. Or how would you explain the sensation about Christian Jessen, British PhD and TV doctor, when he announced that he would undergo a ‘reparative’ treatment for a Channel 4 documentary? Jessen, living in a gay relationship, will test the medical credibility of such conversion therapies as described above. I guess his damage report will be most interesting. And if you follow that link, please assure yourself on the enlightenment of the commentators to that news story.

But we were starting with addiction. You might think that behavioral addiction and homosexuality are too different to be lumped together.  Of course they are, but that’s not the point here. Instead, we are talking about influence and control. The definition of a social phenomenon and a society’s understanding of this phenomenon is dependent on those who are offering definitions to society. It is our duty to check the theses of opinion leaders and to distinguish knowledge from manipulation. Just ignoring them is not enough. This is a laborious task, but you wouldn’t like the alternatives.

Or would you like to be called abnormal because you’re enjoying pornography?

Stay curious,

Mason Squelch

Post Image: The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, John Martin, 1852. Taken from Wikipedia

Brains On Porn, Everywhere!

This post appeared first on Ruby Day’s Blog.

Anamnesis

Given their druthers, most of us would suffer from an awful pest: addiction. Sitting in front of a computer for several hours, the excessive cultivation of contacts in social networks, the consumption of  online pornography is only a cry for help. Because: You are suffering from addiction.

But relax, there’s help.

Last week I’ve read about various types of computer or Internet addiction in different journals, one of them online, the other one on paper. The latter one was from my health insurance. The funny thing is, no definition of online or computer addiction was given; it seems that everybody knows what it is. Well, I don’t, so let us investigate this further.

Diagnosis

When splitting up the term addiction we are getting substance dependence on one hand, and behavioral addiction on the other. Let’s skip the first one: sitting in front of a computer or stroking your body parts is clearly not related to substance dependencies mentioned in DSM IV, the classification system for mental disorders. So there is behavioural addiction left. And this one is indeed interesting.

Behavioral addiction neither has found its way into DSM IV nor into the health care classification system ICD-10 yet. At present, behavioral addiction is regarded as kind of impulse control disorder, but this is not sufficient as it doesn’t satisfy phenomena like habituation and withdrawal symptoms which can grow out of behavioral addiction. This means, as always, there is need for further studies, and most likely we will know in a couple of years how sick and addicted we really are.

Therapy

This vague situation is a breeding ground for many organizations which pretend to give you help. Especially new disorders like hypersexuality enjoy great popularity among conservative circles, allowing them to pathologize a certain kind of behaviour that doesn’t meet their social and moral standards. Especially the cure of ‘porn addiction’ has come into the focus of companies that want to ‘reset’ your brain, premising the ‘brain on porn’ suffers from symptoms otherwise known from substance-related additions.

Needless to say that this fight against illness and filth is both a moral and political one. It has all features of a crusade against immorality, and they are not squeamish in the choice of weapons, knowing there’s always a doctor, a shrink, a therapy that can cure you. Many of them want to make you feel bad first, then they offer help: a network of snake oil salesmen benefits from this emotional, moral, and scientific twilight zone. Bad statistics in insufficient medical studies don’t improve the situation, they just make their little contribution to the general confusion.

To get this straight: there are, of course, people who suffer from addictions, including behavioral ones.  Things are never healthy when they start slipping from your hands and controlling you. OCDs and addictions require skilled personnel for a successful cure. But the grey market of new, crude diseases, especially those with a certain social stigma that makes clear definitions and a scientific approach redundant, this fair of addictions is nothing but brainwashing. Plus the opportunity to make lots of money: the lucrative business of upsetting people and stigmatizing unwanted social behaviour is a win-win for many other people who don’t like what you’re doing now: visiting a sex-positive website, for example. The disease pattern is already defined.

In future posts we will deconstruct some tactics and manipulative techniques of various porn therapy providers.

Stay tuned,

Mason Squelch

Post Image Source:  Effects of Prolonged Comsumption of Pornography, Dolf Zillmann; PD; taken from Wikipedia