Controversy Over Psychiatric Manual Revisions

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MASON CITY, IA – The psychiatric manual that many in the industry rely on to help diagnose patients with mental illnesses is getting some revisions. While those in support of the changes say that they will help make sure people get accurately diagnosed and treated, many critics are afraid the changes will just make the “pop a pill” culture worse.

“There are pages pulled out just because I use it so often,” Shelby Allen-Benitz says as she pages through her copy of the DSM-4.

She’s a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner and often turns to the manual for guidance. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is widely known as the source for diagnosing mental problems. And this book, it getting some revisions.

“I suspect that over the next several months and probably into the following years there’s going to be a lot of controversy,” explains Allen-Benitz.

That’s because some of the changes, according to critics, are turning common human problems into mental illnesses.

In the new addition called the DSM-5, grief soon after a loved one’s death can be considered major depression, and children throwing temper tantrums could have a disruptive mood disorder.

“I think there’s a propensity to put a label on something that may not be there. People act certain ways, that doesn’t mean they have a disorder,” continues Allen-Benitz.

“Prescription drug addiction is the 2nd largest population at our treatment center,” says Jay Pedlety.

Pedlety is a Prevention Specialist and says while prescription drugs have become a problem in society, there’s more to the issue.

“I don’t think the DSM-5 is the driving factor for sure, it’s the culture, we’ve created a culture where people know that there’s something I can take to look better, feel better, perform better,” he explains.

He says mental health needs to be treated just like physical health.

“I think there was a time when we did not do that, to the extent necessary and now we’re catching up and I suppose from one perspective you could look at it and say well, it’s either so much more of this now, we’re over diagnosing but maybe we’re just actually recognizing something that we never recognized before,” says Pedlety.

The DSM-5 hasn’t been released quite yet, but it should be out by the end of May. The American Psychiatric Association is responsible for the DSM. There has not been a change to the manual in more than 10 years.

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