Pathologising everyday life

In: Uncategorized

11 Mar 2010

It is looking increasingly certain that the trend to classify everyday behaviour as abnormal will intensify further. Proposed changes to the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) unveiled last month would widen the definition of psychiatric disorders substantially. If the proposals are adopted when the enormously influential reference work is published in 2013 more people than ever will be defined as mentally ill.

According to an article in the Washington Post:

“Children who throw too many tantrums could be diagnosed with ‘temper dysregulation with dysphoria.’ Teenagers who are particularly eccentric might be candidates for treatment for ‘psychosis risk syndrome.’ Men who are just way too interested in sex face being labeled as suffering from ‘hypersexual disorder.’”

It goes on to quote Christopher Lane, the author of Shyness: How Normal Behavior Became a Sickness, as arguing that “They are close to treating the children like guinea pigs. I think that’s appalling and outrageous.”

Meanwhile, an article in Science notes that:

“proposed revisions for the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders include for the first time “behavioural addictions”—a change some say is long overdue and others say is still premature. So far, only one behaviour has made the cut: gambling, which under the new proposal would join substance-use disorders as a full-fledged addiction.”

The new proposals to further pathologise normal behaviour only confirm what already looked likely to be the trend. In my blog post of 26 July 2009 I already cited an article by Christopher Lane warning that this was likely to happen.

Back in 2008 I also reviewed a book for spiked which showed how this trend was already underway. The Loss of Sadness: How Psychiatry Transformed Normal Sorrow Into Depressive Disorder, by Allan V Horwitz and Jerome C Wakefield is a key book on the subject.