Mental health professionals say new diagnoses will lead to overmedication.
By Rob Waters
December 27, 2011
Anyone who’s ever tried to get reimbursed by a health insurance company after seeing a psychiatrist or psychotherapist, or taking a child or teenager to one, has no doubt noticed the incomprehensible numbers that appear on the clinician’s statement, perhaps preceding some slightly less imponderable phrase.
Maybe you are a 296.22 (major depressive disorder, single episode, mild) or a 300.00 (anxiety disorder NOS–not otherwise specified). Hopefully, you are not a 301.83 (borderline personality disorder). Your kid might be a 313.81 (oppositional defiant disorder) or, more likely, a 314.01 (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, predominantly hyperactive-impulsive type).
Since 1952, a tome called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, better known as the DSM, has been reducing to a few digits the psychological malady said to afflict a patient. This bible of mental health treatment, published by the American Psychiatric Association (APA), provides a list and description of every mental health condition known to—or invented by—psychiatry, from histrionic personality disorder (301.50) to transvestic fetishism (302.3).
Over the decades, the manual, adapted from a guide for mental diseases developed by Army and Navy psychiatrists, has ballooned. The number of listed disorders tripled to nearly 300. A few have been discredited and dumped along the way. Most famous were battles over the inclusion of homosexuality. Successive iterations of the manual listed homosexuality as a “sociopathic personality disturbance,” then modified that to describe a more limited “sexual orientation disturbance” among people who were “in conflict with” their attraction to people of the same sex. That was later replaced by a disorder called “ego-dystonic homosexuality,” applied to those whose homosexual arousal was a source of distress. That item was dropped in the DSM-III-R, published in 1987.