A handful of times I’ve learned of acquaintances falling for psychological diagnostic scams. The most notable are a urine test telling neurotransmitter deficiency and a brain scan to diagnose a mood disorder (Amen Clinic).
I can understand wanting a definitive diagnosis. I know how frustrating it is to go from doctor to doctor with a new diagnosis each time.
When hearing of these two scams, my initial reaction was skepticism and interest. Why had I never heard of them before? Why had no one ever recommended them for me? Quick searches for more information revealed why I’d not heard of these tests.
Neurotransmitter levels in urine do not necessarily reflect the amount of the neurotransmitter in the brain.
We don’t know enough to use brain scans for diagnosis of most psychiatric problems. There are a lot of studies finding differences between the brains of healthy controls and people with a specific problem, but a lot more research needs to be done to use it diagnostically.
Of course there are things that can be diagnosed with brain scans, which makes the Amen Clinic’s service seem legitimate. We can spot brain tumors for one. I even have a friend who had his schizophrenia diagnosis confirmed with an MRI. It’s important to realize that he would have still been diagnosed with schizophrenia regardless of what the the MRI scan showed, it just provided additional evidence for the diagnosis. Also, schizophrenia is a disorder with a larger body of MRI research.
We are no where near being ready to look at a persons brain and tell them they are bipolar.
Unfortunately one of my friends doesn’t realize this and shelled out a lot of money (looks like $3,375.00. according to the website) for this procedure. This clinic also takes a general history. I’m betting that’s where the bipolar diagnosis came from, not the overpriced photos of her brain.
If someone has a lot of money they don’t mind wasting they should go into the two different locations and tell different fake symptoms and then leave with two different diagnoses.
I wonder if the people running these know the science is shoddy? Maybe one person at the top knows and the underlings follow blindly.
If I thought these tests worked I’d get them done in a heartbeat. I want concrete answers. I want to know what is wrong and exactly how to fix it. The guesswork is exasperating. It’s unfortunate that this desire gets taken advantage of.
The people I know who bought into these scams to do not know the tests are bogus. They were given diagnoses and a recommended drug. What do I do? Do I educate them? Or maybe the damage is done and I should leave them be?
They were told in fancy sounding terms what FDA approved drug to take. The treatment plans they were told were nothing dangerous. It’s possible they are getting placebo benefit from this. I’d hate to ruin it if it’s helping them.
But, what if the drug isn’t the right fit? Are they going to feel trapped into taking it when alternatives might be preferable? Or feel hopeless/un-fixable if it doesn’t work?
I also have concern about them advocating the test to others. They share in common this enthusiasm about the test, thinking they’ve uncovered this secret hidden away by the medical community. Should they be told, so others are not dragged into this?
I’ve decided to mind my own business, but I feel a level of guilt over it. As a not-very-close-friend I feel saying more would cross a line.
I wonder how a therapist would/should handle a patient who begins therapy armed with this false information. It’s going to be hard to form a therapeutic alliance by shooting it down at the start. But if the information doesn’t fit with the best treatment plan then something needs to be done.
What do you think? Have you heard of other similar scams?