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.
3 thoughts on “The Economist on DSM-V”
sadly the old if you don’t conform totally to all accepted societal norms then you have something wrong with you approach has been around forever and looks from this to be unlikely to leave us soon. Bad enough when the uneducated, fear driven peasants used it as the excuse for killing ‘witches’, as you mentioned, but for supposedly well educated people specialising in the study of behaviour and mind? That’s just depressing (better watch what I say or they will have me on lithium!). Societies evolve just like organisms and that also requires many departures from the norm, otherwise they become stagnant, unchanging and ulitmately evolution selects them for extinction.
Thank the broken healthcare system in the US for this as well. They need a way to pathologize you so as to justify giving you help, so the insurance companies will pay.
But yes. Really irritating. Says a walking alphabet soup of disorders.
I don’t think that’s a problem. If you want health insurance (and I think most of us do) then there has to be a diagnosis. A dentist has to decide that you have a bad tooth before insurance will pay to have it out.
But here’s the difference. The APA could simply say to a trans person, “oh, you have serious gender dysphoria, let’s get you treated and back into society in a role you are comfortable with.” But they don’t do that, they say, “oh dear, you are mentally ill, and a sexual pervert to boot. We can’t believe anything you say about yourself, you’ll need lifelong psychiatric care, and you may be a danger to society.” And because they regard adult trans people as incurable (because they can’t get them to change their minds about their appropriate gender) they then go looking for children that they are experiment on to try to “cure” the “problem” at an early age.
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