So, the APA has come up with yet another way in which you might be crazy. Last time it was something to do with spending too much time on internet games, but now you might be bitter.

No one could accuse the American Psychiatric Association of missing a strain of sourness in the country, or of failing to capitalize on its diagnostic potential. Having floated "Apathy Disorder" as a trial balloon, to see if it might garner enough support for inclusion in the next edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the world's diagnostic bible of mental illnesses, the organization has generated untold amounts of publicity and incredulity this week by debating at its convention whether bitterness should become a bona fide mental disorder.
I yield to none in my disdain for this whole branch of pseudoscience; but just as I was warming up to this article exposing the weakness of the evidentiary claims, it took an odd turn.
Now I grant that there's a lot of anger and bitterness out there. Part of it, I'd wager, is targeted appropriately at a Republican administration that managed in eight years to bring a largely healthy economy to its knees.
I'm sorry, what?
Do we need to give additional reasons for bitterness at that outcome? The Bush administration managed to lead the country into a protracted, illegal war, based on trumped-up evidence; ignored memos that said the country faced credible terrorist threats; locked up large numbers of suspects afterwards without trial or due process; lied to its citizens about the widespread use of torture; eliminated every sensible, necessary check on financial regulation to prevent a fiscal meltdown; mocked the facts of climate change; and dithered as Hurricane Katrina devastated a large city.
What were we talking about, again?
Heaven knows, there are reasons enough to be bitter about the untold number of opportunities squandered, the problems that have escalated in their place, and the crises now with us that were once entirely avoidable.

But when justified anger at such incompetence is discussed as a sign of mental illness, it's borderline insulting[.]
Oh... kay.

The author turns out to be a professor of literature -- which is an academic discipline at least more rigorous than psychology -- and an author. The book he wrote was called Shyness: How Normal Behavior Became a Sickness.

I am struck by the comparison with Ms. Warner's article, which we discussed below. In her case, it was not "shyness" but "anxiety" that defined her experience with life.

There is something going on here. I wouldn't suggest it was a "mental illness," not just because I wouldn't want to be insulting, but because I don't believe that it is. The only "mental illness" I believe actually exist are the ones with physical, observable causes, which can be corrected. That's an illness, and part of the proper field of medicine. What we're talking about here is not illness, with a medical solution, but something else.

What we're talking about here is not part of the mind, but of the psyche -- which, so many have forgotten, is not the mind but the soul. These are people who have lived lives of remarkable peace and plenty, in a land now ruled by their preferred and chosen officials and policies, and who yet find themselves ruled by fear, by shyness, and by anxiety; and therefore by a kind of seething anger, which is the natural compliment of fear.

What is needed is not a diagnosis, nor a drug. It's a way of learning to live boldly; and a way of embracing joy, even if destruction lays overhead. "Take thou, and strike! The time for casting away is yet far off."

It is your hour. I am managing to enjoy it; why shouldn't you?

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