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The DSM-5 Controversy

depression, DSM-V, diagnosis, mental health labels, mental disorders

Whole divisions of the American Psychological Association are up in arms about proposed changes that will appear in the new DSM-V that comes out in 2013.

Bereavement, which has always been excluded from the mood disorders, will become a mental disorder. Mild forgetfulness will become a mental disorder ("mild neurocognitive disorder"). Your child's temper tantrums will become a mental disorder ("disruptive mood dysregulation disorder"). Even preferring one of your parents to the other will become a mental disorder! (Yes, really: "parental alienation disorder").

You will need to display fewer and fewer symptoms to get labeled with certain disorders, for example Attention Deficit Disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Children will have more and more mental disorder labels available to pin on them.  These are clearly boons to the mental health industry but are they legitimate additions to the manual that mental health professionals use to diagnose their clients?

Here are a few excerpts from the petition that is circulating among mental health practitioners. Regarding changes in the diagnosing of personality disorders:

It is particularly concerning that a member of the Personality Disorders Workgroup has publicly described the proposals as "a disappointing and confusing mixture of innovation and preservation of the status quo that is inconsistent, lacks coherence, is impractical, and, in places, is incompatible with empirical facts" (Livesley, 2010), and that, similarly, Chair of DSM-III Task Force Robert Spitzer has stated that, of all of the problematic proposals, "Probably the most problematic is the revision of personality disorders, where they've made major changes; and the changes are not all supported by any empirical basis."

Regarding the creation of new disorders:

The Conditions Proposed by Outside Sources that are under consideration for DSM-5 contain several unsubstantiated and questionable disorder categories. For example, "Apathy Syndrome," "Internet Addiction Disorder," and "Parental Alienation Syndrome" have virtually no basis in the empirical literature.

If you are a mental health professional and interested in signing the petition being circulated by three divisions of the American Psychological Association demanding that the DSM-V task force back off its efforts at creating millions of new mental patients, here is the place to go:

If you are not a mental health professional but are concerned about these matters, please stay tuned. In this blog I'll be focusing on three things: how we currently conceptualize and "treat" mental disorders, why we should completely revamp and revision our views about "mental health," and how we can genuinely help people become happier and healthier. Let's be vigilant!


Eric Maisel is the bestselling author of 40 books, among them his most recent Rethinking Depression: How to Shed Mental Health Labels and Create Personal Meaning. He is a California licensed psychotherapist, creativity coach, and international lecturer and workshop leader. He can be reached at and visited at