Mental Illness Diagnoses and You.

The fifth edition of the association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is expected in 2012. The APA isn't just deciding the fate of shopaholics; it's also debating whether overuse of the Internet, "excessive" sexual activity, apathy, and even prolonged bitterness should be viewed, quite seriously, as brain "disorders." If you spend hours online, have sex more frequently than aging psychiatrists, and moan incessantly that the federal government can't account for all its TARP funds, take heed: You may soon be classed among the 48 million Americans the APA already considers mentally ill.

Quite how the association will decide when normal kvetching becomes a sickness—or reasonable amounts of sex become excessive—is still anyone's guess. Behind the APA's doors in Arlington, Va., the fine points of the debate are creating quite a few headaches. And they're also causing a rather public dust-up.

To linger anxiously, even bitterly, over job loss is all too human. To sigh with despair over precipitous declines in one's retirement account is also perfectly understandable. But if the APA includes post-traumatic embitterment disorder in the next edition of its diagnostic bible, it will be because a small group of mental-health professionals believes the public shouldn't dwell on such matters for too long.

That's a sobering thought—enough, perhaps, to make you doubt the wisdom of those updating the new manual. The association has no clear definition of the cutoff between normal and pathological responses to life's letdowns. To those of us following the debates as closely as the association will allow, it's apparent that the DSM revisions have become a train wreck. The problem is, everyone involved has signed a contract promising not to share publicly what's going on.

(from slate: the diagnostic madness of dsm-v)


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