May 082011

I’m conflicted about the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders).  I understand the need for shared diagnostic criteria across the mental health professions, but I’m extremely critical of the pathologization and medicalization of many of the “conditions” and “disorders” that the manual describes.  In some cases, a diagnosis can allow individuals who are privileged enough to have health insurance the ability to get their mental health care covered by their insurance provider.  That is one of the main arguments I have heard in favor of retaining the diagnosis of “Gender Dysphoria” in the DSM.  In other cases, diagnoses can justify declaring a person unfit to consent or refuse treatment.  The DSM does not just name and describe “disorders.”  It also regulates the hazy border between “normal” and “abnormal,” between “sane” and “crazy.”

Currently, the DSM is undergoing a revision, with the newest version–DSM-5— to be released in May, 2013.  As part of the far-reaching revision, the American Psychiatric Association has opened the DSM-5 up for reader comments on the structure and criteria changes.  Anyone can create an account, log in, and submit comments on the proposed revisions to the criteria and structure of the manual.  In general, the text from the current manual (DSM-IV) for reference with the proposed DSM-5 descriptions and criteria. The current comment period is open until June 15, 2011.

Unfortunately, it probably won’t be too effective to just log on and leave the comment, “This is not a psychiatric disorder.  Take it out of the manual!!!”…. which is my first inclination with things like the “Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder.”  However, maybe if enough folks offer thoughtful comments, we can shift the ways that the psych industry defines and thinks about our identities, brains, and bodies.

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