Statistics, the Rosenhan Experiment, The DSM & why you may not be Depressed (1)

Mental Illness fascinates me or rather what I should say is: Current understandings and treatments of mental illness really interest me. My own experience with depression and altered states of mind  have really set a precedent early on for my person inquiry into the mind. Check this video out, and look at how statistics and mathematics were used to diagnosing.

But before that check out what Jung said about statistics:

The statistical method shows the facts in the light of the ideal average but does not give us a picture of their empirical reality. While reflecting an indisputable aspect of reality, it can falsify the actual truth in a most misleading way. This is particularly true of theories which are based on statistics. The distinctive thing about real facts, however, is their individuality. Not to put too fine a point on it, once could say that the real picture consists of nothing but exceptions to the rule, and that, in consequence, absolute reality has predominantly the character of irregularity.”


The Rosenhan experiment was a famous experiment done in order to determine the validity of psychiatric diagnosis, conducted by psychologist David Rosenhan and published by the journal Science in 1973 under the title “On being sane in insane places“.The study is considered an important and influential criticism of psychiatric diagnosis. Rosenhan’s study was done in two parts.

The first part involved the use of healthy associates or “pseudopatients” (three women and five men) who briefly simulated auditory hallucinations in an attempt to gain admission to 12 different psychiatric hospitals in five different States in various locations in the United States. All were admitted and diagnosed with psychiatric disorders. After admission, the pseudopatients acted normally and told staff that they felt fine and had not experienced any more hallucinations. All were forced to admit to having a mental illness and agree to take antipsychotic drugs as a condition of their release. The average time that the patients spent in the hospital was 19 days. All but one were diagnosed with schizophrenia “in remission” before their release. The second part of his study involved an offended hospital challenging Rosenhan to send pseudopatients to its facility, whom its staff would then detect. Rosenhan agreed and in the following weeks out of 193 new patients the staff identified 41 as potential pseudopatients, with 19 of these receiving suspicion from at least 1 psychiatrist and 1 other staff member. In fact Rosenhan had sent no one to the hospital.

The study concluded “it is clear that we cannot distinguish the sane from the insane in psychiatric hospitals” and also illustrated the dangers of dehumanization and labeling in psychiatric institutions. It suggested that the use of community mental health facilities which concentrated on specific problems and behaviors rather than psychiatric labels might be a solution and recommended education to make psychiatric workers more aware of the social psychology of their facilities. However, the study has been critiqued and accused of being pseudoscience presented as science.



      • I worked as a nurse awhile ago and I have done the odd shift in mental health units when they have been short-staffed, just filled in for people. They weren’t bad places, but I think treatment for mental health issues could be improved, not just in in-patient units, but as a whole.


      • I agree with you I do agree that mental health stands to be improved. They have changed a lot since the 50 -60’s but there is always more room for growth. Are you a health care professional by trade ? I have always so far worked in the medical and scientific research are so far


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