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Cory Silverberg

British Psychological Society Critique of the New DSM

By June 27, 2011

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The opportunity to comment on the proposed changes to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), has been extended to July 15.

Some of the proposals are for change, others are to a keep things the same. Either way, the DSM has a huge impact on how people with a great deal of power over us choose to talk about our experience of sexuality and gender. So if you're willing to engage with people in power, you may want to consider commenting.

The British Psychological Society submitted a collective response to the DSM-5 committee. The begin with general statements and then address specific diagnoses. I heard about the response from Ken Pope, who has a copy of the 26-page critique on his site. Here are some of the highlights:

The Society is concerned that clients and the general public are negatively affected by the continued and continuous medicalisation of their natural and normal responses to their experiences; responses which undoubtedly have distressing consequences which demand helping responses, but which do not reflect illnesses so much as normal individual variation.

The putative diagnoses presented in DSM-V are clearly based largely on social norms, with 'symptoms' that all rely on subjective judgements, with little confirmatory physical 'signs' or evidence of biological causation. The criteria are not value-free, but rather reflect current normative social expectations. Many researchers have pointed out that psychiatric diagnoses are plagued by problems of reliability, validity, prognostic value, and co-morbidity.

While some people find a name or a diagnostic label helpful, our contention is that this helpfulness results from a knowledge that their problems are recognised (in both senses of the word) understood, validated, explained (and explicable) and have some relief. Clients often, unfortunately, find that diagnosis offers only a spurious promise of such benefits.

In response to the sexual dysfunctions diagnosis in particular here's what they wrote:

Of particular concern are the subjective and socially normative aspects of sexual behaviour. It is a matter of record that homosexuality used to be considered a symptom of illness. The Society would not be able to support considering sexual differences as symptoms of illness.

Read more - British Psychological Society: BPS Concerns About Overmedicalisation (via Ken Pope)

Learn how to comment on the DSM-5

Related - The New York Review of Books: The Epidemic of Mental Illness: Why?

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