By Jeremy Corter
Is the DSM 5 really claiming that physical aliments are actually a mental disorder?
To put it simply, no, but this doesn’t mean the symptoms used to classify Somatic Symptom Disorder is off the mark.
Take the third symptom, or “devoting excessive time and energy” to symptoms. As it is explained in Toni Bernhard’s article, this could mean trying to figure out what’s going on for six months or more. But with it sometimes taking years to figure out some problems like Fibromyalgia, this is far too broad a symptom. And what if you have symptoms of SSD and no one knew about it? What then?
Take disproportionate thoughts about the seriousness of one’s symptom(s). Is it disproportionate to say pain in the chest area could be a sign of something deadly? I wouldn’t think so. But would it be disproportionate to think that one is going to die if your hands hurt? Perhaps. The key word here is “disproportionate.” And here is the problem I have: while there is a point where we may worry too much about how serious our symptoms, where’s the line? Is it disproportionate worrying if the wart on your back is going to cut your years down? What about if your hair and teeth start falling out?
The last symptom, high anxiety, raises I think the biggest issue: is this a new disorder or just anxiety disorder with a medical focus? I could see how some people might worry way too much about what their bodies might be trying to tell us, but where, once again, is that threshold? What is too much anxiety versus the right amount of it?
The real problem here isn’t so much that physical symptoms are being called a mental illness. It’s more about how one feels about their symptoms and I can easily see where we might have issues of obsessive worry. But with the vague wording of the SSD symptoms, each person can take their own meanings to it. What’s excessive to one person may be necessary to another. That’s the problem.
In short, don’t worry too much if something pops up the next time. You could drive yourself crazy, apparently.