about me

Els van Veen (Amsterdam, 1970)


UTRECHT – Portret van Els van Veen.

I signed up for the process of obtaining a formal diagnosis (2014) because a book and an interview gave me the idea that I ‘might have’ autism. Back then, I was still under the
impression that autism is a ‘real’ condition, that a psychologist or psychiatrist is able to detect. On one hand, this provided me with a lot of clarity, but on the other hand it presented me with a lot of dilemmas. I only noticed these because I received the diagnosis as a general practitioner.
Then I had a interview in Medisch Contact in 2017, about autism and being a doctor. Particularly through this process I discovered that the field of psychiatry has been sceptical about the DSM  for a long time now, and also that there is hardly scientific basis for the DSM.

I think it would be better if psychiatrists were more honest – and more modest. Not to ignore the good ones, but there are quite a lot of psychiatrists who publicly very firmly say things about autism that bother me now that I have this DSM-classification myself . I also think it would be better if psychiatrists would realise that diagnosing someone with autism can also have damaging effects. For example, in the Netherlands young people with autism have to undergo expensive extra examinations before they get their driver’s license.

I hope that we eventually won’t consider autism an illness or disorder anymore. If we
refer to autism as an illness or disorder, it needlessly makes people sick. The whole
healthcare system is currently mostly based on ‘nursing the sick’. Healthcare should be much
more focussed on people’s abilities and strengths. I’m very hopeful that a movement called
‘De nieuwe GGZ’ works towards a mental healthcare system that better suits the needs of individual persons, and tries to provide persons with autism and the people around them as much personal responsibility as possible. The second thing that I find important is that there is room in our society for people who function ‘differently’. That would mean you wouldn’t really need to ‘label’ people with conditions. It would be even better if diversity is not only tolerated, but celebrated as an enrichment to our society.