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Manual of Mental Disorders falls short

By in Opinions


If diagnosed, a child’s temper tantrum is now treatable with medication.
If diagnosed, a child’s temper tantrum is now treatable with medication.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is the most frequent way to standardize and define a psychological disorder. Some have called it the Bible of psychology because it is the universal resource for all mental health professionals and those suffering from mental health issues.

However, this once trusted guide has recently experienced conflict; in many cases, the manual favors diagnosing personality traits and habits that many would not consider mental health disorders.

The most recent edition, released in May 2013 as the DSM-V, was expected to be groundbreaking in psychiatry because of its updated information and diagnoses.

Interestingly, not all health professionals validated the changes to the manual. In fact, many of the changes in the DSM-V were strongly opposed. Yet, the DSM-V was still published and released.

For example, Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder has been recently added to the DSM-V. The disorder essentially classifies a child’s temper tantrum as a mental disorder requiring medication.

Excessive eating — quantified as binging 12 times in three months — is now classified as Binge Eating Disorder. I think we are all guilty of this from time to time.

Anyone who has tried an illegal substance one or two times is now lumped in with drug addicts. I guess many of us need to go to rehab.

Elderly people who occasionally forget where they placed their keys may be suffering from Minor Neurocognitive Disorder. Although there is a diagnosis there is no treatment offered. All the diagnosis will do is increase the individual’s anxiety. So why name it as a disorder at all?

The American Practitioner’s Association published the first DSM in 1952 in an effort to reduce confusion and form a consensus of sorts among health practitioners in psychiatric fields. The DSM was used to define, diagnose and eliminate possible ailments of patients.

The manual has since guided the direction of mental health, creating a diagnostic language for mental health practitioners to use.

Nonetheless, many mental health professionals, established journals and members of the press and general public alike all oppose these changes to classifications of mental health disorders in the DSM-V. The opposed changes appear to have little moral or scientific backing and these changes can ultimately lead to a misdiagnosis, effecting both patients and clinicians.

Scariest of all, this once highly used and recommended text — that managed to put chaos into order — has been treated as a plaything.  Drug companies and lucrative businesses are able to profit off of diagnoses that have no scientific background and are so general that they can be applied to almost anyone.

These mistakes are the start of a lack of credibility in the profession. Perhaps those who proposed and approved these supposed mental disorders had clouded judgment with potential profit in mind. How can we trust these same individuals to not have clouded judgment with their patients?

It’s not simply a matter of ignoring the updates in the DSM-V but rather a question of the moral standing and scientific reasoning on which the discipline of psychology is based. The DSM-V claims to abide by the same basic principles as other scientific disciplines, yet the changes to the DSM-V have been and continue to be widely disputed.

A manual — especially one regarding mental health issues — should be created for the benefit of patients and mental health practitioners. If the changes to the DSM-V only increase patient anxieties or unnecessary medicinal drug usage among toddlers with temper tantrums, forgetful grandparents or excessive eaters alike, then something is wrong.

Photo: Photo: FHAlexander/Flickr

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