NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


July 30, 2010

An updated edition of a mental health reference for doctors  may include diagnoses for "disorders" such as toddler tantrums and binge eating, and could mean that soon no one will be classed as normal, says Reuters.   

Leading mental health experts warn that the new edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), which is being revised now for publication in 2013 by the American Psychiatric Association (APA), could devalue the seriousness of mental illness and label almost everyone as having some kind of disorder.  Citing examples of new additions like "mild anxiety depression," "psychosis risk syndrome," and "temper dysregulation disorder," they said many people previously seen as perfectly healthy could be told they are ill. 

"It's leaking into normality.  It is shrinking the pool of what is normal to a puddle," said Til Wykes of the Institute of Psychiatry at Kings College London. 

  • The DSM is published by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) and contains descriptions, symptoms and other criteria for diagnosing mental disorders.
  • It is seen as the global diagnostic bible for the field of mental health medicine.
  • The criteria are designed to provide clear definitions for professionals who treat patients with mental disorders, and for researchers and pharmaceutical drug companies seeking to develop new ways of treating them. 

According to Wykes and colleagues Felicity Callard, also of Kings' Institute of Psychiatry, and Nick Craddock of Cardiff University's department of psychological medicine and neurology, many in the psychiatric community are worried that the further the guidelines are expanded, the more likely it will become that nobody will be classed as normal anymore: 

  • Technically, with the classification of so many new disorders, we will all have disorders.
  • This may lead to the belief that many more of us "need" drugs to treat our "conditions," and many of these drugs will have unpleasant or dangerous side effects.
  • The "psychosis risk syndrome" diagnosis is particularly worrying, since it could falsely label young people who may only have a small risk of developing an illness. 

Source: Kate Kelland, "Mental health experts ask:  Will anyone be normal?"  Reuters, July 27, 2010. 

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