However, since most people love or work with someone who suffers from a mental illness at some point in their lives (or perhaps, are the sufferer), it behooves us all to know a little bit about what the DSM is. Even people in other countries, though they may use a different type of guidebook to reference mental illness (the WHO/World Health Organization uses an ICD-10).
We have one current edition (the DSM-IV), and the Powers That Be are currently at work on the DSM-V, due out in May 2013.
The way that we think and talk about psychiatric illness has implications for all of us – not only mental health professionals and their patients, but anyone with affected friends and family members, policy-makers struggling to know what services to provide and pharmaceutical companies considering future profits. So it’s unsurprising that a proposed new edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM), widely described as the “psychiatrists’ bible”, is causing much furore – but slightly more surprising that much of the dissent comes from within psychiatry. <snip>
But we need to be clear: if someone is unwell, the first step to delivering effective care is to diagnose what the problem is. Making a diagnosis guides evidence-based clinical decisions. In most situations encountered in mental health, some level of diagnosis is essential to ensure effective help is provided (when needed) and that everyone can have some shared understanding of the situation.
For example, there are many reasons why an adult may develop lethargy, lose weight and become less active and interested in life. This could reflect temporary adjustment to a changing life situation (ie, a normal response to life’s difficulties). The person might have cancer. The person might have heart failure. Alternatively, the person may be experiencing a severe depressive episode and be at immediate risk of suicide. The ways of helping are all very different – and not all medical – and diagnosis is needed to distinguish between the possibilities and implement the right help as early as possible. Accurate and prompt diagnosis may be life-saving.
Light bedtime reading (Photo credit: Richard Masoner / Cyclelicious)Revisions are necessary, because the way we think about what mental illness is, keeps evolving. Most mental health professionals today agree that homosexuality is not a mental illness, although it was considered so in early editions of the DSM.
Right now, as drafts and ideas have been floated into the mental health community, those with a dog in the fight, so to speak, have been unleashing the hounds.
Because the revisions may now group Asperger's Syndrome in with other autism spectrum disorders, many Aspies are outraged; they see their condition as a benefit, not a disorder. They are reducing ten categories of Personality Disorders to six. Depressive disorders will not necessarily exclude grieving.
In spring 2012, comments will again be opened to the public for the working draft of the DSM-V. If you have fears, concerns, or just curiosity, you might want to follow the course of this process, and add your own two cents.
My A-Z theme is Issues related to Mental Health or Mental Illness.
Are you or someone you know affected by the proposed changes in the DSM?