Revising the Book on Mental Illness Will Give People Unnecessary Labels

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The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, (DSM) otherwise known as the bible for psychiatry is undergoing a facelift. Soon there will be a psychiatric label for everything.

Children who throw tantrums will now be referred to as temper dysregulation with dysphoria. Eccentric teenagers can be labeled as psychosis risk syndrome, and men who are a little too interested in sex face being labeled as suffering from hypersexual disorder. Simple emotions such as grief may get labeled as depression.

These are among dozens and dozens of new of proposals that the American Psychiatric Association will be introducing. It is the first complete revision since 1994. The DSM and the proposed revisions are designed to try to bring scientific evidence on a psychiatric diagnoses and could have far-reaching implications, including determining who gets diagnosed as mentally ill, who should get powerful psychotropic drugs, and whether and how much insurance companies will pay for care.

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“It not only determines how mental disorders are diagnosed, it can impact how people see themselves and how we see each other," said Alan Schatzberg, the association's president. "It influences how research is conducted as well as what is researched. It affects legal matters, industry and government programs."

That is not all that will be determined. It will also determine potentially billions of dollars for pharmaceutical companies, insurance companies, government health plans, doctors, researchers and patient advocacy groups.

Critics fear the new diagnoses could unnecessarily stigmatize many people and lead to the unnecessary use of psychiatric medications that can sometimes produce serious side effects.
"By massively pathologizing people under these categories, you tend to put them on an automatic path to medication, even if they are experiencing normal distress," said Jerome C. Wakefield, a professor of social work and psychiatry at New York University.

"They are close to treating the children like guinea pigs. I think that's appalling and outrageous," said Christopher Lane, author of Shyness: How Normal Behavior Became a Sickness. "The APA should be moving to prevent such controversial practices, not encouraging them, as it is doing here."
Many people are concerned including Michael B. First, a professor of psychiatry at Columbia University. "These people will never get long-term-care insurance if they have that on their chart," he said "How many people with just healthy sex drives will be given that label?"

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