Even in these overly medicalised times, where feeling well is increasingly confused with awaiting diagnosis, the idea that well over a third of Europe is suffering from a mental disorder just doesn’t tally with our actual lived experience. After all, does it not seem absurd to think that one in every three Europeans is mentally ill? As many have observed before, absurdity abounds in the psychiatric worldview. The most banal of everyday behaviours, emotional states that I’d wager almost everyone has encountered at some point in their lives, have been given technical, medical-sounding names. So shyness becomes ‘avoidant personality disorder’; anger becomes ‘intermittent explosive disorder’; and if the experts get their way, not throwing stuff away will become ‘hoarding disorder’. In an incredible bit of insightless prose, we are told by DSM’s recent consultation document that, ‘The symptoms [of hoarding disorder] result in the accumulation of a large number of possessions that fill up and clutter active living areas of the home or workplace to the extent that their intended use is no longer possible’.
Do you live surrounded by clutter – ancient copies of magazines, your children’s old toys, articles you’ve clipped out of newspapers over the years? If you find it hard to throw out things of limited or no value, you could be suffering from hoarding disorder. ‘Hoarding’ is just one of the new mental conditions being added to the psychiatrists’ bible, or the Diagnostic And Statistical Manual Of Mental Disorders (DSM), to give it its proper name.