Psychiatric Views on the Daily News - Episode 70

Mass Formation Psychosis and the Need for a DSM of Social Psychopathologies

Are social psychiatric problems the responsibility of psychiatrists? Governments? Laws? Sociologists?

PSYCHIATRIC VIEWS ON THE DAILY NEWS

In our last daily column, “Common Sense and the Desire to Help in the Synagogue Hostage Crisis and in Psychiatric Practice,” we covered the first 2 lessons learned that members of SPIRIT had written about the synagogue hostage crisis in the column “Social Psychiatric Lessons Learned and Relearned in the Aftermath of the Synagogue Hostage Crisis.” To continue that series, we will address whether we need a classification of social psychopathologies.

It seems self-evident that the social psychiatric problems in our world continue to be a major challenge to our collective well-being. The long-standing ones, such as anti-Semitism, racism, and sexism, have been joined with Islamophobia, cultism, burnout, climate instability, and even dwarfism as the new Snow White movie is discussed, among others. However, what societal entities are responsible to address them is not clear. Governments? Laws? Sociologists?

It could be—and I would say should be—psychiatry. Why not a DSM of Social Psychopathologies to supplement the one on individual patient disorders?

Why not? For one, it might seem like a waste of time and effort, as this has been considered before as far as racism goes. There were calls, especially by Black psychiatrists, to add some classification of racism, but that was never accepted for a DSM.

However, public attention is now being paid to something called “mass formation psychosis” after a December 31st Spotify podcast of “The Joe Rogan Experience,” which reaches about 11 million people per episode. He interviewed the physician Robert Malone, who years back had been involved in the development of the mRNA vaccine technology, but who has also been suspended recently from Twitter for perceived violations of COVID-19 misinformation policy. Dr Malone drew parallels of “mass formation psychosis” to the mentality developed among the German population in the 1920s and 1930s. He characterized it as having free-floating anxiety, a sense of unreality, and a charismatic hypnotic leader, all of which is now causing people to seek out vaccines.1

Whether this and claims of similar social conditions has any validity and therapeutic implications is unclear. Having our American Psychiatric Association classification experts investigate this controversy and issue their conclusions could help.

My hope is that developing a classification of social psychopathologies, whether including some variation of “mass formation psychosis” or not, could lead to helpful prevention and treatments. Certainly, such conditions do harm to others, let alone to the perpetrators themselves.

Dr Moffic is an award-winning psychiatrist who has specialized in the cultural and ethical aspects of psychiatry. A prolific writer and speaker, he received the one-time designation of Hero of Public Psychiatry from the Assembly of the American Psychiatric Association in 2002. He is an advocate for mental health issues relate to climate instability, burnout, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism for a better world. He serves on the Editorial Board of Psychiatric TimesTM.

Reference

1. Berlatsky N. Joe Rogan, ‘mass formation psychosis’ and why people really believe unscientific things. Independent. January 10, 2022. Accessed January 31, 2022. https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/joe-rogan-mass-formation-psychosis-covid-b1990337.html