With several new diagnoses expected in the forthcoming edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, a group of leading mental health professionals is questioning whether anyone will still be considered “normal.”
Citing what they call three false epidemics in recent years — high rates of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism and childhood bipolar disorder that emerged after the current DSM-IV was published — several psychiatric experts are taking on the wide variety of new disorders expected to be added to the DSM in the August issue of the Journal of Mental Health.
“In the new edition, temper tantrums among toddlers and heartache over a lost spouse could now be defined as mental health conditions,” says Jerome Wakefield, a social worker at New York University. “One of the most frightening scenarios is the potential for medicating people — particularly children — who haven’t yet shown any signs of illness in a bid to ‘treat’ them for Psychosis Risk Syndrome, as identified by the new draft of DSM-V.”
The DSM serves as the bible for mental health professionals, researchers and insurers by determining what symptoms warrant an official diagnosis. The current edition was released in 1994 and the American Psychiatric Association is presently compiling a fifth version, which is expected to be published in May 2013.
Among the chief concerns outlined in the Journal of Mental Health articles are the stigma that’s associated with mental illness and how that could impact a growing part of the population and fears about over-medication that may result if more and more symptoms are considered worthy of diagnosing.
Revisions to the DSM can be heated and debate emerged about the currently proposed changes even before an official draft was revealed in February. In particular, a proposal to bundle several labels including Asperger’s syndrome under the term “autism spectrum disorders” has proven particularly contentious.