This is the third of the trilogy I bought for the kindle last year.

Jon Ronson has a literary style which makes for very easy reading and this, I think, flows from his journalism background.

This book is a tour into the depths of madness. There is a strong focus on psychopaths as this provides a near way to illustrate what works and what does not work within the current paradigm of understanding of mental illness.

We have case studies, history and researched facts in here. It is, at times, quite uncomfortable reading and one cannot help but apply Bob Hare’s PCL checklist to ones own situation.

I’ll not bore you with my list of answers; one correspondent recently wrote to me and said “I can only conclude that you are some form of sociopath”. They may or may not have been “on the nail” but I’ll not give the joy of public affirmation to either assertion. This is precisely the point of the book – that we can all be labelled and defined if that is what is required.

I share his concerns about the drive to “label” otherwise normal behaviour, particularly on our children and am also deeply concerned over the autism epidemic. People and children who are a little bit different may well have nothing other than a different normality and there must, by definition, be a range of normality. There would appear to be a sense of “belonging” if a child is diagnosed with autism and I wonder if the diagnosis suits the parents more than it fits the child in many cases. The concern deepens further with the whole matter of childhood bipolar disorder. These are not labels which are easily shifted.

I can’t help but wonder if there is yet another angle to this matter to be explored: that of the effect on insurability. Those who are labelled in early life will have to declare these diseases on their insurance and premiums will therefore be higher… In a world where insurance companies are feeling the pinch just as much as we are, a chance to increase premiums must seem like a good reason to increase labelling. A further aside on that would be: in order to get an insurance company to pay for treatment for a mental disorder it must be characterised within the DSM. There is thus a drive to categorise as widely as possible. I realise that this is not an issue for UK residents but even here the stigma of a label can adversely affect life or critical illness insurance.

My advice – don’t tell the doctor anything.

During a talking therapy session I once asked the therapist if a particular behaviour was “normal”. Her reply? “Define normal”.

And there you go.

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