If there were fewer possible psychiatric diagnoses, would fewer people consider themselves ill?
A growing number of health experts suspect that psychiatric care is drifting toward “diagnostic inflation,” in which the rate of mental disorders balloons as a result of new diagnoses - and not due to an increasingly troubled population. What’s worse is that this process may be fueled by the very document that is supposed to control it.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), a 1,000-page behemoth that is now in its fifth edition, gives researchers and clinicians across the country a common language for discussing the ins and outs of a mind that is not well, ideally allowing everyone to agree on who is and isn’t ill.
The manual is produced by the American Psychiatric Association (APA). Although the APA has insisted that its signature document should not be read as a rulebook, with definitions set in stone, a publication of this scope and caliber inevitably shapes the field.
If the DSM-5 says your pain doesn’t align with its definition of pain, you can be certain that, in the eyes of most psychiatrists, lawyers and policy makers, you’re not in pain. ('A Pill for Every Ill')