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BREAKING NEWS: Study Confirms Natural Disasters Make People Unhappy

An assertion of fact in whose contradiction no one would for a moment believe is not worth making.

by
Theodore Dalrymple

Bio

December 15, 2012 - 7:00 am
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The editorial continues, “the mental health effects of disaster are not limited to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and may include general distress, anxiety, and other psychiatric disorders.” As this is written, it implies that general distress and anxiety are in themselves psychiatric disorders, that the person who is (say) distressed at the loss of his home is in some way psychiatrically disturbed. This is indeed odd; I would put it rather the other way round, that the person who is not in the least distressed at the loss of his home is likely to be psychiatrically disturbed. An undistressed murderer is a much more chilling individual to meet than one who is distressed.

Perhaps what the authors meant (one certainly hopes that what they meant) was the following: “the psychological effects of disaster are not limited to PTSD and other psychiatric disorders, but include general distress and anxiety.” But this is not what they wrote; and one suspects that their imprecision of language is a reflection of their imprecision of thought.

Let us continue briefly on this via dolorosa of cliché. The authors tells us: “Notably, the mental effects after a disaster vary across the exposed population.” But an assertion of fact in whose contradiction no one would for a moment believe is not worth making. When you have nothing to say, say nothing. It is hardly surprising that the authors’ prescriptions should make Ellen Wheeler Wilcox seem hard-edged and cynical by comparison: promoting a sense of safety, calming anxiety, increasing collective efficacy, encouraging social support, and instilling hope.

Actually, another editorial in the same edition of the Journal provides us with a clue as to its subtext, as literary theorists would call it. The other editorial is about the forthcoming reduction in federal funding for medical research. The author quotes Winston Churchill’s favourite Chinese ideogaph, that for crisis, which he maintained contained simultaneously the notion of disaster and opportunity. For the entrepreneurs of psychopathology, disasters are an opportunity, none better in fact.

*****

Image courtesy shutterstock / andrea michele piacquadio

Previously on health and medicine from Dr. Dalrymple at PJ Lifestyle:

 As Life Expectancy Increases Will the Elderly Become a Greater ‘Burden on Society’?

Should Doctors Lie to Their Patients About Their Survival Chances?

How Doctors Turn Their Patients into Drug Addicts

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Theodore Dalrymple, a physician, is a contributing editor of City Journal and the Dietrich Weismann Fellow at the Manhattan Institute. His new book is Second Opinion: A Doctor's Notes from the Inner City.
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