Every parent of a preteen has been there: on the receiving end of sullen responses, bursts of frustration or anger, even public tantrums that summon the fear that Children’s Aid is on its way. Come late May, with the publication of the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), however, such sustained cranky behaviour could put your child at risk of a diagnosis of “disruptive mood dysregulation disorder.”
In 1952, the first hydrogen bomb was detonated and the American Psychiatric Association, APA, published its first book of mental illnesses: the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, DSM.
No one, then, could have imagined that this seemingly innocuous manual would be more destructive, and result in producing more victims, than a nuclear weapon.
Since then the DSM has mushroomed and with each revised DSM untold millions carry the scars from its devastating effects.
Towards the end of May, the fifth version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V), the iconic bible of psychiatry, is coming off the presses after much revision and delay. It’s bound to keep people asking, “Am I normal or do I have a mental illness?”
If you think most diseases are established with objective criteria and rigorous debate, you’d be somewhat wrong. The DSM has a strong track record of taking clusters of symptoms and wrapping labels around them, which lead to the accelerated use of some of the most toxic medications on the planet. How does this happen?
Lori Chapo-Kroger was an active intensive care unit nurse, but after a series of mysterious symptoms began a decade ago, her thinking became “cloudy” and she said her legs “felt like they were made of lead.”
“I felt like every system in my body was collapsing,” said Chapo-Kroger, who lives in Grand Rapids, Mich. “I remember not even being able to stand up to make my own bed. I literally lay on the floor and had to ask my daughter to change the bed sheets for me. She was 13.” But for three years she went from doctor to doctor, all who told her she was crazy, that her symptoms were in her head.
The forthcoming edition of an American psychiatric manual will increase the number of people in the general population diagnosed with a mental illness – but what they need is help and understanding, not labels and medication.