The fifth edition of the DSM, or Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is set to release in May 2013. It is published by the American Psychiatric Association and in it contains the diagnostic codes often used by doctors for mental illness. This time around they have included a brand new category of mental disorder: Somatic Symptom Disorder. According to the criteria outlined, a person may be diagnosed with SSD if for six or more months they have been affected by symptoms that are “distressing or disruptive to their daily life”, and if they have reacted in one of the following ways:
- Disproportionate thoughts about the seriousness of their symptom(s).
- A high level of anxiety about their symptoms or health.
- Devoting excessive time and energy to their symptoms or health concerns.
Okay, so personally, this is really sad. I’ve been fighting long and hard for the past two years to try and get an answer as to why I’m having such severe pelvic pain. The pain more then affects my ability to live a normal life, and yes, I have gotten anxious about the pain. In reality, who doesn’t get anxious when they don’t know what’s going on in their body? That certainly doesn’t make it a mental disorder. Now I fear that instead of getting the help I need, I’m going to be tossed aside, simply classified as having a mental disorder.
To me, and hey, maybe I’m wrong (after all, I’m not a medical professional), having one of the above reactions seems natural in a situation where your body is going haywire in one way or another and you can’t figure out why. This labeling puts every chronically ill person in danger of being labeled as having a mental disorder. In the sad and sorry society that we live in today, once you’re labeled with a diagnosis like that, not a lot of people are going to take you seriously. It’s even possible that insurance companies may begin refusing necessary testing simply because of that diagnosis. We are going to be in real trouble, here.
This is going to put the people of the public in a real predicament. For instance, if a doctor you are seeing thinks that you may be paying just a little too much attention to your health, and he diagnoses you with SSD, then what happens? What if there is something that is seriously wrong? What if nobody takes you seriously anymore? What is going to happen at that point?
One of the people who have been highly opposed to the DSM’s decision to include SSD is Dr. Allen Frances, MD. Dr. Frances was head of the DSM 4 task force. According to his blog he says the following; “I hoped to be able to influence the DSM 5 work group to correct this in two ways: 1) by suggesting improvements in the wording of the SSD criteria set that would reduce mislabeling; and 2) by letting them know how much opposition they would face from concerned professionals and an outraged public if DSM 5 failed to slam on the brakes while there was still time.”
It was a matter of changing a few simple little words, and the DSM task force refused. In Dr. Frances’ words, “The DSM 5 has failed us.” While it isn’t aiming specifically at those with Fibromyalgia, CFS, etc., this new DSM 5 categorization will make those with these illnesses “particularly vulnerable to a diagnoses of SSD.”
Is There Anything I Can Do?
Sadly, at this point, the DSM refuses to correct “Somatic Symptom Disorder”. However, Dr. Frances has written a few pieces on this horrendous failure of the DSM. It has received a huge amount of feedback, so what I encourage you to do is to head over to this article and to leave a comment. On a local level, you could also get in touch with your elected officials to tell them how you feel about this new inclusion of SSD in the DSM.
To me personally, this is both incredible and awful. It’s incredible because you would think that in this day and age, where we have all this technology available to us that things like this wouldn’t be happening. Unfortunately, behind that technology, we have a bunch of incompetent medical professionals only looking after the welfare of their paycheck.
Toni Bernhard’s Article: Physical Illnesses May Soon Be Labeled Mental Disorders
Dr. Allen Frances’ Article: Mislabeling Medical Illness as Mental Disorder
Dr. Frances’ Article: DSM 5 Refuses to Correct Somatic Symptom Disorder