New Mental Health Manual Criticised for Being Too Inclusive

A new edition of the diagnostic ‘bible’ for mental illness published by the American Psychiatric Association has been criticised by experts for potentially categorising normal behaviour as a mental illness.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is used around the world for diagnosis and education purposes. But critics are concerned that the new edition, which bases diagnoses on factors such as binge eating or mood changes, is at risk of including too many people in its categorisation of mental illness.

“In the new edition, temper tantrums among toddlers and heartache over a lost spouse could now be defined as mental health conditions,” explains Jerome Wakefield of New York University’s Department of Psychiatry.  “One of the most frightening scenarios is the potential for medicating people – particularly children – who haven’t yet shown any signs of illness in a bid to ‘treat’ them for Psychosis Risk Syndrome, as identified by the new draft of DSM-5.”

Professor of Psychiatry at Cardiff University Nick Craddock said it was “useful and necessary” for practitioners to agree on how they identify symptoms of psychiatric disorders but that it was “problematic” to label behaviours that overlapped with normal conduct as medical symptoms.

Bill Walden-Jones, Chief Executive of Welsh mental health charity Hafal, said: “We are not sure about how productive this sort of debate is. Everyone has to address some kind of mental health issue in their lives. The notion that 1 in 4 people has a mental illness is itself rather artificial. The important thing is to address serious symptoms of mental illness which have a major impact on people’s lives.”

For more information please go to the Journal of Mental Health website.