The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) is a dismal book. As Sam Kriss points out in The New Enquiry (18th October 2013), in the DSM-5 normality is a “negatively defined and nebulous ideal, so anything and everything can then be condemned as a deviation from it.” So, if by some miracle you don’t meet the criteria for any of the many, many disorders listed in the DSM-5, can you be considered normal, or even happy? Beware – don’t be too happy, because that can be diagnosed as a manic episode. Similarly, causing ‘social or occupational distress’, no matter how sound the reason for doing so (trying to break up with your boyfriend? Hid your workmate’s chair in the stockroom as a joke?), can lump you with a personality disorder. Because the DSM-5 defines so many disorders by behaviours that it considers ‘symptoms’ (drug use, prostitution) and neglects the real-world contexts that might actually explain them, reacting to anything with passion, anger, sadness or any other basic and powerful human emotion gets you a diagnosis. Crazy indeed.
Dr Campbell Aitken PhD BSc
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