The American Psychiatric Association recently previewed
some of the proposed changes to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual
of Mental Disorders, colloquially known as the DSM. Any alterations to
what The Washington Post calls "the massive tome that has served as the
bible for modern psychiatry for more than half a century" have a major impact on how mental illnesses are diagnosed, and inevitably attract controversy
. As one Huffington Post blogger noted
"you haven't seen infighting until you watch psychotherapists and
others who worship at the mental health altar argue over the DSM." The new edition has started debates over juvenile behavior disorders, sex addiction
, binge eating -- but the the big changes, say those in the know, are to Asperger's and child bipolar disorder.
- Reduction of 'Bipolar' Label for Children Calling this "a move that could potentially change mental health practice all over
America," NPR'S Alix Spiegel writes
of the inclusion of "a new diagnosis" that the association "hopes ...
used by clinicians instead of the bipolar label" when dealing with
young patients. Spiegel traces the controversy over bipolar diagnoses
for children from the emergence of the trend to the height of its
popularity and the backlash. Though the diagnosis has "some real
advantages," including letting parents "off the hook," putting the
label of a lifelong condition like bipolar on a child is risky.
- Controversial, But Bipolar Change Is Good F. Paul Wilson
at True/Slant is one of those welcoming the shift away from the bipolar
diagnosis. "Children with bipolar disorder are treated with
anti-psychotics," he explains, "which, to be frank, I, as a primary
care doc with just enough knowledge in this field to be dangerous, find
scary as hell." He finds it even more frightening to contemplate these
drugs' effect on a child misdiagnosed with the neurochemical bipolar
disorder, and who instead actually has a behavioral disorder. As for
the fracas over the DSM in general, he writes: "A new DSM is always
controversial, as it should be. In essence it defines who’s normal and
- Asperger's No Longer Separate From Autism Tracy Staton at
FiercePharma says "one of the biggest [changes] is the elimination of
some specific diagnoses that [the committees] view as subsets of
broader illnesses ... Asperger's syndrome, for example, would be folded
under an umbrella diagnosis of 'autism spectrum disorders,' on the
milder end of that spectrum." The New York Times' Benedict Carey says
this is one of the changes that has been "widely discussed" and "the
subject of intense speculation and lobbying" for months. Becky Jungbauer at ScientificBlogging also highlights this change.
- Reasons to Doubt the Changes Merrill Goozner,
former reporter for the Chicago Tribune, is concerned about conflicts
of interest in the DSM review process. "Dozens of psychiatrists who
serve on the DSM-V (it's the fifth edition) task force and working
groups have financial ties to the pharmaceutical and medical device
industries, as well as to numerous patient advocacy groups." Thus, even
if the task force's recommendations are legitimate, they will be
"bathe[d] ... in a layer of doubt," as critics point to these ties.
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