Mental health: British shrinks beg to differ

From this side of the Atlantic, the U.S. increasingly looks like a loony bin. The Republican debates may be the best reality show ever invented but they do not enhance America's reputation abroad for being a sane, stable society.

No surprise then that health-care professionals in Britain are pushing back against the new edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, the handbook of psychiatric diagnosis, published by the American Psychiatric Association. It sets the international standard but to many British mental health professionals it goes way overboard in classifying behaviors as clinically ill.

DSM-5 is due to be published in May. Peter Kinderman, professor of clinical psychology at the University of Liverpool, told The Guardian, he disagreed with the new category of "oppositional defiant disorder." He called it dubious. "Since my children say, 'no, you are an idiot, dad' repeatedly to me, by definition my children are ill."

Til Wykes, professor of clinical psychology at Kings College London, told the paper: "The proposals in DSM-5 are likely to shrink the pool of normality to a puddle with more and more people being given a diagnosis of mental illness."

It is possible, of course, that the proliferation of different syndromes and illnesses identified in the new manual have something to do with the interplay of insurance companies needing a diagnosis to pay for psychotherapy, rather than America just being a hotbed of new forms of mental illness.

IN any case, the all-encompassing nature of DSM-5's definitions of madness reminds me of the lines from the gravedigger's scene in Hamlet:

HAMLET: Ay, marry, why was he sent into England?

First Gravedigger: Why, because he was mad: he shall recover his wits
there; or, if he do not, it's no great matter there.


First gravedigger: Twill, not be seen in him there; there the men
are as mad as he.

Substitute America for England and there's the joke.

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