Friday, February 10, 2012

DSM-V: Continually Changing Definition of Mental Illness

Once upon a time, centuries ago when they still burned witches (okay, only last century, in 1973), the DSM-III, which is the diagnostic manual for the psychiatric profession, included homosexuality as a mental disorder.  But because psychiatry couldn't cure it, could not even figure out what caused it, and because they kept getting pressure from their gay colleagues (at least the way some tell the tale), the APA removed homosexuality from the DSM-III.  Similar efforts are now under way to get pedophilia (along with other sexual deviances) removed from the DSM.

Now there is considerable pressure to add "homophobia" to the list of mental illnesses in the DSM.  But this might be a bit too abrupt of a change--a bit too blunt of a reminder that psychiatry is closer to witch doctoring or politics than science.  Here's another example from February 9, 2012 Fox News:

Millions of healthy people - including shy or defiant children, grieving relatives and people with fetishes - may be wrongly labeled mentally ill by a new international diagnostic manual, specialists said on Thursday.
In a damning analysis of an upcoming revision of the influential Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), psychologists, psychiatrists and mental health experts said its new categories and "tick-box" diagnosis systems were at best "silly" and at worst "worrying and dangerous."

Read more:
In 1970, what is now regarded by much of the American public as simply a personality quirk was a mental disorder.  What in 1970 was a personality quirk--shyness--will, if certain factions within the APA get their way, become a mental disorder.  And grieving?  That's not a personality quirk at all, but a normal human reaction to loss.

It is pretty clear that the APA is more an arm of the Democratic Party than a serious scientific organization.


  1. So only dissociative people will never suffer from the psrsonality disorder of grieving?
    Witch-doctoring is putting too nice a face on it!
    And why stop at homophobia?
    Sexism, islamophobia, xenophobia, racism, bigotry, and denial that big, intrusive government with huge tax bills are unalloyed blessings are just too socially distruptive to allow. Maybe we will see in our lifetime the day that the US puts dissenters in mental hospitals and (at least the non-soviet) eastern bloc sees such actions as anti-liberty.

  2. Is there any prominent voice within the APA that challenges usage of the word "phobia" to define something that is not a literal phobia - that is, treating that scientific term as a synonym for bigotry?

  3. This isn't a comment on your post, but just a note about a possible cause of some cases of schizophrenia: cats may be to blame, at least in part.

  4. The toxoplasmosis connection has been under investigation for at least a decade so far. The emergence of cats as house pets (instead of the familiars of Satan) may explain the 8x increase in schizophrenia rates in Europe from 1600 to the present.