Pyschiatry and the DSM
Bryn Mawr College, Fall 2010
Psychiatry and the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM)
- Is psychiatry a valid science?
- Is illness real or contrived?
- Is psychiatric illness real or contrived
- Is the new DSM edition, DSM-IV really needed? How valid is it and past manuals?
- Are the “disorders” in these manuals actually disorders?
- Are these disorders biases of society?
- Does the society shape the DSM? Or is it the DSM that shapes society?
- Does mental illness transcend culture? Or is it culture specific?
The DSM categorizes mental disorders in the United States/ It is used in a wide array of contexts by clinicians and researchers in many different settings (Hospitals, clinics, insurance companies, etc). Initially, the DSM was developed from collected statistical information. It has evolved through four revisions to provide a common language and standard criteria for the categorization of mental disorders. Recently, controversial revisions of the DSM have been proposed and are currently under review. http://www.psych.org/mainmenu/research/dsmiv.aspx
What will be included in the New DSM-V?
“The new DSM-V will include many new categories to capture the milder subthreshhold versions of the existing more severe official disorders.” http://pn.psychiatryonline.org/content/44/16/4.1
Potential Issues with the DSM-V
“The DSM-V is supported only by thin literatures and will not have extensive field trials to predict the extent of the false positive risks, especially in primary care settings.” http://www.psychiatrictimes.com/dsm-5/content/article/10168/1425378)
“The new DSM-V will include many new categories to capture the milder subthreshhold versions of the existing more severe official disorders.” -This may flood the world with new false positives" http://www.psychiatrictimes.com/dsm-5/content/article/10168/1425378)
“The field testing for DSM-5 will receive no support from the National Institute of Mental Health” (http://www.psychiatrictimes.com/dsm-5/content/article/10168/1425378)
”We have already had years of scientific review through our NIH funded conference series, secondary data analyses, and literature reviews by DSM-V work groups and study groups and their advisors.…..Altogether, we have had more than 500 of the world’s best and brightest clinicians and researchers working together to provide a solid scientific basis for the proposed changes to DSM” (http://pn.psychiatryonline.org/content/44/16.4.1) -Response from the American Psychiatric Association
Americanization of Mental Illness New York Times Magazine, 10 January 2010
Summary of in class discussion (hope)
In class on Monday Naa and Collette led a discussion of the DSM and its pros and cons. We started out broadly with the question "is psychiatry a valid science?" This led to emphasizing the distinction between psychiatry and psychology. We then discussed whether the DSM should be the definitive manual for diagnosing psychiatric disorders? Moira made the comment that for those who fit into the specific categories in the DSM it can be helpful for understanding the problem and getting help. The class agreed that people are often uncomfortable not being in a category, or having symptoms that are not neatly defined.
We also discussed the possibility of a new edition, edition 5, of the DSM being produced and the possibility that the DSM 5 might have broader categories leading to more diagnoses of mental illness. We discussed the pros and cons of this. On the pro side, we mentioned that more diagnoses could help reduce the stigma of mental illness and the possibility that many people with mental illness might be currently undiagnosed.
We also discussed the relationship between the DSM and society and how they shape each other. We sited examples of disorders that are found in some cultures and not in others, such as the lack of dyslexia in Ghana and the lack of ADD in most other countries. This prompted the questions do societies create disorders, and if disorders are specific to societies can they be called disorders. We mentioned that the definition of disorders change, for example homosexuality used to be a disorder. Professor Grobstein stated that schizophrenia is not a disorder but a different way of viewing the world. Naa gave us the example of the choreographer of Cats, who might have had what some people would consider ADD but these characteristics made her quite successful. We then discussed what they role of psychiatry should be given that many disorders are culture dependent and what the role of the DSM should be in psychiatry.
Continued conversation and implications (Kwarlizzie, 25 October 2010)
It would be worth further exploring the history of the DSM in this regard. My guess is that, originally, the DSM was conceived as an effort to reduce the tendency to judge potential mental health problems by norm socio-cultural standards, and has after the fact become itself a socio-cultural standard? - Paul Grobstein
This made me think of a article I read awhile ago that is similar to the Scientific American article I linked. The article claims that depression gives individuals an evolutionary advantage of being able to analyze problems better than non-depressed people. Understanding depression from this perspective make you think of depression less as a disorder and more as an adaptive function. I think many other mental disorders can provide an evolutionary advantage based on the specific skills and talents they create. Maybe mental disorders are too much of a good thing. - lbonell
I think the question of whether or not mental illness derives from a culture or a culture ‘creates’ a mental illness is very interesting…What mental and physical health consequences come with this (relatively new) high-stress lifestyle that most Americans lead today? Researchers have noticed an increase in the diagnosis of ADD/ADHD in America in the past ten years. Are American’s daily demands too much for our mental health? Is it true that more American children today do not have the ‘healthy’ attention span that requires them to sit through a full day of school? Or is it not the child’s fault, but instead the structure of the classroom, and then later the structure of the workplace that inhibits them from holding their attention? In addition, I am not familiar with the instance of ADD/ADHD in other cultures around the world, but it would be intriguing to look into whether or not they have also seen an increasing trend in demands of the workplace and diagnoses of ADD/ADHD, or other mental illnesses. – mlhodges
On the other hand, I can't help but feel that the many disorders that are diagnosed on a spectrum today have created a very different society, and not necessarily in a positive light. Mental illnesses such as autism and ADHD are two examples of this. Should every child taking medication for ADHD actually be taking those meds? probably not. Should children who are kind of strange/quiet/shy/slower than their peers be definitively diagnosed as having autism? maybe not. I raised the point in class that the issue of autism has had a sincere effect/will continue to have a sincere effect on vaccination rates. Because of this, i think it is really important to actually narrow down what autism is (which may be impossible right now), so that when scientists are investigating a link between vaccines and autism, they are looking at cases of true autism as opposed to cases where a child is arbitrarily given the label. A diagnosis of autism is often arrived at as a result of ruling out all other options. So with this example in mind, I am not sure i can support extending diseases to more of a spectrum. - adowton
Conclusions to date:
- Definitions of mental illness may be more plastic than we previously thought: illness are different across cultures.
- Mental illnesses also change with time and society.
- Some behaviors that are acceptable today were not acceptable in the past
- Some mental illnesses that exist today did not exist in past times
- Mental illnesses could be so plastic because of the way societies change. As they change, new challenges rise, and these challenges can give rise to new forms of mental illnesses.
- The DSM is a useful manual to have, but it is not without its problems
- Among other things it is useful for the standardization of the treatment of mental disorders
- The DSM is problematic because it categorizes mental disorders neatly, which is often not the case in reality.
Continuing discussion on on-line forum below