When did life itself become a treatable mental disorder? by Patricia Pearson at The Globe and Mail
It is a peculiar and reductive logic about the nature of being human, this idea that grief – or stress, or bingeing on pie – merits medical intervention. And it is a logic that pervades the DSM revisions, which is why the manual is proving wildly controversial on the eve of its unveiling.
Psychiatrists have resigned from the revision working groups to protest against various criteria; open letters have been penned by the British Psychological Society, and the American Society for Humanistic Psychology; petitions have been signed by thousands of mental-health practitioners; boycotts are being planned in both North America and Europe. “I will not buy DSM-5. I will not use it. I will not teach it,” psychiatrist Patrick Landman, of Université de Paris VII, declared in Psychology Today, where several professionals have taken to voicing their fierce opposition with ongoing blogs…
… As the manual grows (the original had 95 mental disorders; the last edition, 283), they argue that it lowers so many thresholds for being diagnosed with minor mental illnesses that life, itself, becomes treatable as disease.
The proposed revisions to Generalized Anxiety Disorder, for instance, drop the bar practically to the level of being worried about your job and having muscle tension. You need to have one of four symptoms, according to psychiatrists who have seen the draft, and be worrying “excessively” about at least two areas of your life. Your job and your finances, say. How worried is too worried? What is wrong with waves of dread when your bank account dwindles to zero?
Allen Frances, a U.S. psychiatrist and professor emeritus at Duke University who oversaw the previous DSM revisions in 1994, calls this “a travesty of careless suggestions that will likely turn our current diagnostic inflation into hyperinflation.”
One of the most decried DSM revisions involves the introduction of “Somatic Symptom Disorder,” which will be diagnosed in a patient who displays “excessive and disproportionate thoughts, feelings and behaviours” in relation to an illness. It doesn’t have to be an imagined illness, or a medically unexplained illness. It can be cancer, or gout. If you are plagued by chronic pain, let us say, and fret about it a lot, then your physician can decide that you are being unreasonable, and thus declare you disordered.