It takes quite a lot for a news story to get on The Economist’s radar, so I was rather surprised to see them covering the forthcoming new edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V). However, I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised that trans people are by no means the only group that the APA is trying to entangle in its net. Heck, if they are going after Asperger’s sufferers half of fandom could be in danger of being labeled “mentally ill” as they stretch the net to cover anyone whose behavior is at all suspect.
The real issue here is not whether certain people have social problems, it is defining those problems as something “abnormal” that needs to be “cured”. People break limbs, people have problems with their internal organs, people have to have diseased teeth removed. All of these things can be fixed. You don’t consign someone with toothache to a lifetime of psychiatric treatment and drug regimes to help them cope with having toothache in order to avoid the social stigma of having a tooth removed; you just get on and remove the tooth, and hardly anyone is in danger of losing their job because they have a missing tooth. The APA, however, would rather keep people sick so that they can carry on “treating” them. And what they like best of all is inventing new “illnesses” so that even more of the population fall into their clutches. Because if you can’t find any real witches to hunt you invent “signs” that you claim are “proof” that someone is a witch.
Psychiatry should be about helping people who have problems, not an exercise in enforcing social conformity.
Anyway, the first public draft of DSM-V is due out on the 10th. Expect howls of protest from all corners of society.