It’s just over a month until the UK general election and many Brits seem to have lost trust in their traditional politicos. Whether it’s the UK Independence Party (UKIP) scapegoating the European Union and immigrants, a rise in nationalism (the Scottish National party), or Russell Brand’s teenage anarchism, faith in facile, and sometimes ugly, solutions is on the march. It’s a huge relief, therefore, to hear that the editors of the DSM (the main reference book for psychiatric classification), are considering a new category of disorder to cover this condition. Clearly many critical things have been said about the burgeoning amount of psychiatric diagnosis, here and elsewhere. However, I’ve just looked at the DSM draft entry (reproduced below), and think that this time, the American Psychiatric Association might really be onto something. In fact, all I can say is bring it on.
The British Psychological Society’s report ‘Understanding Psychosis and Schizophrenia’ has challenged many commonly held beliefs about serious mental health problems. While the report has been widely welcomed, it has also prompted questions, particularly focusing on the report’s key recommendation that we move beyond seeing distress as a symptom of disease:
The Time to Change campaign is the biggest mental health stigma busting campaign in the UK, receiving an estimated £21 million between 2007 and 2011. Given this level of investment I would hope it made significant differences to stigma surrounding mental health problems. The truth is that it hasn’t, and in some areas of stigma, prejudice has increased.
Psychiatrist Glen Simblett reflects on what DSM diagnosis might mean in the consulting room and offers the unusual metaphor of dance to think about how we might best help people.
In 1980 the mental health industry invented a new diagnostic label, one of many, for the 3rd edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM III). The American Psychiatric Association (APA) presented DSM III to the world as a scientific revolution in psychiatric understanding. If people suffering emotional distress had accepted the APA’s statements about the new manual, they would have rejoiced that such a wealthy and powerful organisation had put its energies into making sense of psychological suffering. The vast majority of people receiving one of these new labels had experienced great trauma – sexual abuse, extreme life events and repeated abuses of power. Quite a progressive move by the APA then: understanding the effects of power on people. Psychiatrists could show care, understanding, and perhaps even provide a sense of solidarity to people who were marginalised. Unfortunately, in 1980 the APA willed Borderline Personality Disorder into being. The APA’s idea of empathy and understanding led to vast numbers of survivors of abuse being labelled as disordered individuals.