By: Jonathan Benson
With every new revision of the American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) controversial Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) comes the addition of new so-called “mental disorders” that are really just variances in human behavior. And the manual’s proposed fifth edition is no exception, as it proposes reclassifying normal behaviors like bereaving the death of a loved one, for instance, or spending “too much” time surfing the internet, as mental disabilities that necessitate taking psychiatric medications.
The successor to DSM-4, which was originally published in 1994, DSM-5 is set to be released in May 2013 following various preliminary draft revisions, several public comment periods, and general review by the psychiatric and medical communities. But so far, thousands of health professionals have already come out in opposition to the new manual in its current form, as it basically redefines a number of otherwise normal human behaviors as supposed mental illnesses.
According to David Pilgrim from the University of Central Lancashire in the U.K., it is obvious that DSM-5 “will help the interests of the drug companies” by widening the scope of what is considered to be mental illness. He told Reuters Health in a recent interview that the new guidelines “risk treating the experience and conduct of people as if they are botanical specimens waiting to be identified and categorized in rigid boxes.” He added that it is a “form of collective madness,” and referred to the proposed revisions as a “pseudo-scientific exercise.”
The original 1840 Census of the United States contained only one classification for mental illness, after all, which was known as “idiocy/insanity.” But throughout the following century, the number of recognized mental disorders jumped to over 100, while today, the APA recognizes more than 300 behaviors as mental illnesses in DSM-4. And for DSM-5, that number will likely jump significantly higher.
“Many people who are shy, bereaved, eccentric, or have unconventional romantic lives will suddenly find themselves labeled as mentally ill,” said Peter Kinderman, head of Liverpool University’s Institute of Psychology in a recent interview. “It’s not human, it’s not scientific, and it won’t help decide what help a person needs.”
What it will do, though, is give the field of psychology more opportunities to prescribe psychotropic drugs like Adderall, the popular medication for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), to children. ADHD diagnoses, after all, have been steadily rising over the years as the field of psychiatry continues to expand the scope of symptoms and perceived behaviors that constitute this so-called mental illness.
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