DSM-5 ignites a firestorm of controversy: but so far Saybrook remains the only University to take a stand

DSM-5 ignites a firestorm of controversy: but so far Saybrook remains the only University to take a stand

Some 11,000 mental health professionals have signed their names to a petition protesting the vast expansion of “mental illnesses” coming with the DSM-5, the “Bible of psychiatrists” which frequently determines what insurance companies will and won’t pay for. 

Accusations of bias, drug company money, and an attempt to “pathologize ordinary life” have dogged the DSM-5 from the beginning, and the media is taking notice. 

Revision of psychiatric manual under fire,” wrote the San Francisco Chronicle.

American Psychiatric Association Under Fire for New Disorders,” says ABC News. 

Psychologists fear US manual will widen mental illness diagnosis,” says the Guardian of London.  “Mental disorders listed in publication that should not exists, warn UK experts.”

Individual difference suffers in the neverending explosion of mental illness,” writes The Australian.

CBS news writes that “The proposed changes have some experts and parents worried that lots of people who currently are diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder may be left in the dark when it comes to necessary state benefits.”

What kind of other changes are we looking at?  An editorial in the Lancet took exception to the fact that the DSM-5 authors are apparently removing language noting that depression is often a normal part of the process of grieving for the death of a loved one. 

Seriously:  the new DSM is on track to deny that being depressed by the death of a loved one is a normal part of the grieving process. 

It’s unbelievable, and it’s understandable why so many mental health professionals are throwing up their hands and saying “Enough.”  (Donna Rockwell did so in The New Existentialists here)

It’s no stretch to say that the fate of millions of people who go in for counseling depends on what happens with the DSM-5.  It may be hyperbole to say that what’s at stake is what it means to be human in the 21st century … but that’s certainly one of the questions on the table. 

So far, however, Saybrook University remains the only educational institution to sign the petition.  This must not remain the case:  educational institutions have a role to play in the study of our common humanity, and its defense.  I can only hope other institutions dedicated to the study of psychology will recognize their duty to stand up and be counted.

— Benjamin Wachs

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