By Alex Beam
March 16, 2010
The irresistible, plus-size piñata for on-the-case journalists is the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, now undergoing revision. The DSM famously includes snoring and jet lag as mental disorders. I took a whack last year, calling the 880-page doorstop “a naked land grab by a profession threatened with marginalization by biomedical research.’’
Last month historian Edward Shorter accused the DSM of accelerating “the trend of making variants on the spectrum of everyday behavior into diseases: turning grief into depression, apprehension into anxiety, and boyishness into hyperactivity.’’ Just a week ago in The New Yorker, Harvard professor Louis Menand called out the shrinks for the “blatant pathologization of a common personality trait’’ — shyness — “for the financial benefit of the psychiatric profession and the pharmaceutical industry.’’
We all agree on one thing: Desperate to sell drugs, psychiatrists use their “scientific’’ manual to identify an ever-broadening panoply of absurd new syndromes amenable to pharmaceutical cure. But what if we are all wrong? Suppose the opposite is true? Perhaps the psychiatric profession has been far too conservative about proclaiming new, treatable disorders. Here is my own modest list of psychological problems that I hope to see addressed when the new DSM-V is published, three years from now:
Dysphoric iPhobia, or single cell anomia: the counterintuitive feeling that somehow I can survive in the 21st century without owning an iPhone, and its impossible-to-resist “apps.’’ Or the forthcoming iPad, another, pointless $500 geegaw. My junky Verizon cellphone serves me fine.