Welsh mental health experts warn of changes to ‘bible’ of mental health disorders

Leading mental health experts in Wales have warned that changes to the American “bible” of mental health disorders could lead to “normal” reactions to life situations being labeled as depressive illness.

Experts have spoken out about possible alterations to the fourth version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). DSM is one of two systems for diagnosing mental health problems and is influential on shaping research.

Cardiff University Professor Nick Craddock, a world expert on bipolar disorder, said DSM will include extra categories which will mean more aspects of human behaviours and emotions such as bereavement being classified as problematic. He said this was tantamount to “medicalising normal human behaviours”.

Professor Craddock told the Western Mail: “At the moment if someone has an episode of severe low mood, if it has certain symptoms and severity it would meet the accepted diagnostic criteria for depression.

“However, if a severe low mood follows something like a bereavement that would currently be an exclusion for depression because we would regard it as normal that someone would feel low. But DSM are planning to remove that exclusion which would mean someone having what most people would regard as a normal reaction (to bereavement) would then attract the label of having a depressive illness. It seems to be an unhelpful direction of travel.”

Richard Bentall, Chair of Clinical Psychology at the University of Bangor, said: “Like earlier editions this version of the manual is not based on coherent research into the causes or nature of mental illness.

“It seems likely that the main beneficiaries will be mental health practitioners seeking to justify expanding practices.”

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