By Ethan A. Huff
May 11, 2010
Proposed changes to the U.S. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) could include reclassifying childhood temper tantrums, teenage angst, and binge eating as psychiatric disorders. If accepted, the proposals could equal billions of dollars in new revenue for pharmaceutical companies.
The DSM is often referred to as the “bible” of the psychiatric profession. The handbook exerts significant influence on the American healthcare system, affecting everything from insurance companies and medical providers to universities and prisons. Even the legal system lends credence to its provisions.
It is precisely because of its wide scope of influence that many condemn the DSM. The manual is known for categorizing character traits and emotions as mental conditions for which medical treatment, typically drugs with highly dangerous side effects, is advised.
According to Christopher Lane, author of a 2007 critique of DSM called Shyness: How Normal Behavior Became a Sickness and professor at Northwestern University, responded to the American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) proposal by saying, “The organization is clearly opening another Pandora’s box here, as well as paving the way for the medication of even greater numbers of children and teenagers cycling through emotional stages as part of normal development.”
He is right, considering the fact that if binge eating is reclassified as a psychiatric disorder, millions of Americans could instantly be declared as mentally ill. Though provisions would be included to exclude those who merely overeat, the ramifications of associating eating disorders with mental illness at all would likely include a massive increase in the number of people taking psychotropic drugs.
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