Tuesday, March 31, 2009

On the Disorder List

Reading about MLB pitcher Dontrelle Willis and his brand-swillin' new "anxiety disorder" diagnosis initially made me feel great empathy in the face of much incredulity across the Innaweb. It's not hard at all for me to comprehend an athlete (even a baseball player) being rendered temporarily useless by such an illness because, as any faithful Trapper Jenn reader knows, I suffer from panic disorder. Last year, that brave man running in my family placed me on the 90-day DL (more or less), sapping me of energy, hope, and will, costing me thousands in missed work, packing pounds on my frame, and making even walking up and/or down a flight of stairs an untenable chore.

To read Willis' explanation, however, is to be struck.

“This is not something where I’m too amped up, I don’t know where I’m at, and I’m running sprints up and down the parking lot. This is not something like that. (The doctors) see something in my blood that they don’t like. I’m not crazy. My teammates might think I’m crazy. But this is not something like that.”

Well, yes...one who suffers from anxiety disorder is not crazy. Or at least not because of that.

Willis also says that the diagnosis was determined through the results of a blood test.

"They didn't like what they saw in the blood (tests)," Willis said of the unidentified doctors who are treating him. "They had a very concerned look on their faces."

I'd have a concerned look on my face too, if I had no idea what the hell I was doing.

Anxiety disorder cannot be found via blood work. Not possible. No psychological disorder can! Also, in my experience, the diagnosis identifies a specific type: generalized anxiety, panic, etc.

Any professional purporting to proclaim the existence of such an illness had better refer to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Per DSM-IV, here is the criteria to make such a call:

A. At least 6 months of "excessive anxiety and worry" about a variety of events and situations. Generally, "excessive" can be interpreted as more than would be expected for a particular situation or event. Most people become anxious over certain things, but the intensity of the anxiety typically corresponds to the situation.

B. There is significant difficulty in controlling the anxiety and worry. If someone has a very difficult struggle to regain control, relax, or cope with the anxiety and worry, then this requirement is met.

C. The presence for most days over the previous six months of 3 or more (only 1 for children) of the following symptoms:
1. Feeling wound-up, tense, or restless
2. Easily becoming fatigued or worn-out
3. Concentration problems
4. Irritability
5. Significant tension in muscles
6. Difficulty with sleep
D. The symptoms are not part of another mental disorder.

E. The symptoms cause "clinically significant distress" or problems functioning in daily life. "Clinically significant" is the part that relies on the perspective of the treatment provider. Some people can have many of the aforementioned symptoms and cope with them well enough to maintain a high level of functioning.

F. The condition is not due to a substance or medical issue

To read his words, Willis doesn't even seem that out of sorts.

"They asked me how I was feeling, and I told them I felt good but amped-up to go out there," he said. "It's a fine line between being too amped-up and anxiety. ... I don't know what (test) revealed it. They drew blood and told me a whole bunch of things."

They told me a whole bunch of things. In the case of a real anxiety diagnosis, Willis should be telling them a whole bunch of things.


  1. Yeah, I totally agree. When i heard "blood test" for his anxiety, and when he said the doctors said "they didn't like what they saw" I was so confused. I was thinking, What did they see in his blood? Maybe irregular amounts of Hormones and chemicals. But either way I wish him the best. I know hes been struggling to comeback with good numbers for a few years now. Maybe he had a melt down. Some hard work to become emotionally stable, maybe some physiotherapy, and some drugs will help. ive always been a big fan of the D-train.

  2. Nothing but the best wishes on my end too. I hope they find what is genuinely wrong with Dontrelle and treat it the correct way. If it turns out that it is an emotional disorder, I hope the baseball community will be supportive. I remember when that Raiders player was revealed to have bipolar disorder. He got raked over the coals.