Surf the web too much? That might soon land you on a psychiatrist’s couch.
The American Psychiatric Association (APA) is catching heat over proposed amendments to its newest Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) — widely considered the “bible” of psychiatric symptoms in the mental-health industry.
Opponents say the new version would label millions more people as “mentally ill” for conditions such as extreme shyness — and qualify them for psychiatric drugs they don’t need.
The DSM-5, as the new edition will be called, is scheduled to be released in May 2013, and could list “Internet addiction” among its diagnoses.
The association says it is still considering how to address non-substance-abuse addictions.
“Gambling disorder has been moved into this category and there are other addiction-like behaviorial disorders such as ‘Internet addiction’ that will be considered as potential addictions to this category as research data accumulate,” the APA says on its website.
Experts say lots of the new diagnoses are problematic – like “oppositional defiant disorder.”
“That basically means children who say ‘no’ to their parents more than a certain number of times,” said Pete Kinderman of Liverpool University’s Institute of Psychology, according to Reuters.
“On that criteria, many of us would have to say our children are mentally ill.”
People who are excessively shy could also be diagnosed as mentally ill under the new guidelines, Kinderman said.
Kids’ temper tantrums might be explained by “disruptive mood disregulation disorder,” characterized by temper outbursts that occur at least three times per week.
David Elkins, president of the American Psychological Association’s society for humanistic psychology, helped launch a petition against the new manual, yielding more than 11,000 supporters, according to ABC News.
“Our main concern is that they’ve introduced some new disorders that have never been in a DSM before that we think are not scientifically based,” he said.
“We’re not opposed to the proper use of psychiatric drugs when there’s a real diagnosis and when a child or an adult needs pharmacological interventions,” he said. “But we are concerned about the normal kids and elderly people who are going to be diagnosed with these disorders and treated with psychiatric drugs.
“We think that’s very, very dangerous.”
Dr. Allen Frances, who worked on revisions for the current manual, DSM-4, agrees that the proposed changes are irresponsible.
“You don’t want to be inventing new diagnoses until you’re sure they can be accurately made, effectively treated that the treatments are safe,” said Frances, a psychiatry professor at Duke University, according to ABC News. “None of these conditions is fulfilled in DSM-5.”
“You can’t have one professional organization, like the American Psychiatric Association, responsible for vetting something so important,” he added.
The APA hasn’t commented directly on the backlash, but said in a statement that it considers “input from all sectors of the mental health community a vital part of the process,” according to ABC News.
“We are confident that the DSM-5 will be based on the most reliable scientific and clinical data.”