Monday, November 3, 2014

Defining Mental Illness

The DSM V defines mental illness as
A behavioral or psychological syndrome or pattern that occurs in an individual
That reflects an underlying psychobiological dysfunction
The consequences of which are clinically significant distress (e.g., a painful symptom) or disability (i.e., impairment in one or more important areas of functioning)
Must not be merely an expectable response to common stressors and losses (for example, the loss of a loved one) or a culturally sanctioned response to a particular event (for example, trance states in religious rituals)
That is not primarily a result of social deviance or conflicts with society
I have some problems with this definition from the start. You see, we all have behaviors, syndromes, and patterns that occur in our psychology regardless of our mental state, but that's just so you ignore how sneaky point 2. is. There are many schools of psychology, but in American and especially with the APA, only the medical model matters because it is profitable, and the DSM is attempting to make it science. The sneaky part is in the wording:
A behavioral or psychological syndrome or pattern that occurs in an individual.
psychobiological dysfunction.
This syndrome is inside you and caused by a biological irregularity. That's what the DSM is trying to clarify. The problem is that there is no evidence to support such a claim. There are no biological tests or makers or x-rays, and your psychiatrist will continue to diagnose patients using behavioral criteria alone. They will continue to use drugs to treat these disorders, even though they aren't sure how the drug treats the disorder because they don't know what causes it anyway. What they are sure of  is that, in a few years, the general public will believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that any and all disorders are biological and must be treated with medications.
In fact, the DSM V has done more advertising than it has actual defining, and what I take away from this new definition is that a mental illness is defined by the total possible profit the APA and the Pharmaceutical companies see to be made in the diagnosis.


  1. I never liked the term 'mental illness,' or rather the unfortunate and wholly incorrect connotation it carries with it. Everyone in the world is 'mentally ill,' in some way, in its truest form. We (society) use(s) the term to group people (which, when used for anything beyond data correlation (ie - to make judgments about people) is generally not a good thing) to bunch together people with problems that have interfered with their lives to a degree where functioning in society becomes difficult or cannot be done.

    Sometimes that's biological, sometimes behavioral, sometimes both. None of that changes the fact that everyone in the world goes through hardships, has problems, days they find it hard to cop e, interact, get out of bed, etc. 'Mental illness' is just the name (imo) given to those people where the problems have become so severe as to impede them from what life they'd like to lead.

    There is no 'normal.'

  2. Mental illness is the title that allows a clear definition between "us" and "them". It also cements the idea that there is something "wrong" with you. I spent most of my life so focused on the things that were wrong with me that I never really considered much of anything else. It's also a misnomer because mental illness isn't a sickness. It's not a truly medical diagnosis. You can show mental illness on a scan or an xray. No blood test will establish it. Yet, it is allowed to be the final say in so many decisions in a person's life.