Does Everyone Have a Mental Illness?

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If the DSM-5 had its way, we would all be suffering from some form of mental illnessIf the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) had its way, we would all be suffering from some form of mental illness. This book is the standard reference manual for the American Psychiatric Association (APA), and its fifth edition (DSM-5) just came out last week—but it’s causing controversy in the industry for adding so many new mental health disorders.

For example, did you know that if you experience the normal grief that follows the death of someone close to you, you could be labeled as suffering from major depression? Why is the DSM-5 taking this approach? The APA says that the DSM-5 is meant to cover the whole extent of current knowledge about mental illness. It is intended as a guide for professionals to identify and diagnose patients in hopes of directing them towards a specific treatment program.

However, critics of the diagnostic manual say that labeling every symptom as a syndrome benefits psychiatrists and drug companies more than it does patients. Over-diagnosis is the big fear. If a patient has a problem with their mental health, and a diagnosis can be found in the DSM-5, insurers are more likely to supply coverage for any treatment needed.

At first, it might not sound so bad—what’s wrong with having a name for your mental illness and getting covered for treatment? Part of the problem is that many experts, including those at the National Institutes of Health, think that the DSM-5 will allow doctors to prescribe medication for patients experiencing normal emotional responses to tragic life events. Many mental health problems can be resolved without taking drugs, considering drugs actually do little to address the root cause of mental upsets. Grief, to follow our example, can be a healthy response to loss. It doesn’t necessarily need to be treated as an illness. It takes time for the mind to heal. Getting support for the body and spirit through a period of grieving is often all that’s needed. This can be a life-teaching journey that doesn’t need to be immediately halted with numbing drugs.

MORE: The children’s condition that affects adults too

We have to wonder why the DSM-5 is so inclined to include so many new mental illnesses. Does it have to do with the big bucks the pharmaceutical companies rake in every year?

The answer lies in some revealing statistics. Consider these numbers which recount the profits made through sales of the following antidepressants:

  • Pristiq: $555 million
  • Escitalopram oxalate: $650 million
  • Lexapro: $2,170 million
  • Cymbalta, which tops the list with a staggering $4.0 billion in revenue.

Critics also raise concerns around the diagnosis of children’s mental health problems. Childhood is particularly fraught with emotional ups and downs. Children can be vulnerable to all sorts of outside factors infringing on their emotional well-being. This can run the gamut from nutritional deficiencies to bullying and abuse and even just plain old ordinary emotional growing pains as a child figures out his or her place in the world.

There’s another catch-22 in all of this: those who need help the most may not get it. Resources will be spread across a much greater area, drawing in people who don’t really need psychiatric help, while those suffering from clinical mental disorders, on the other hand, fall through the cracks.

So what can you do? Take these illnesses with a grain of salt. Understand that sometimes, emotional hardships are normal, and will pass with time, especially if you’re going through a difficult time in your life. If you find yourself struggling for weeks and months, that’s when you know that your everyday grief or troubles might be a sign of something more, and you need to get help.

Source(s) for Today’s Article:
Krans, B., “Mental Health and the DSM-5: Is Anyone Normal Anymore?” Yahoo Health website, May 20, 2013; Mental Health and the DSM-5: Is Anyone Normal Anymore? http://health.yahoo.net/articles/mental-health/mental-health-and-dsm-5-anyone-normal-anymore, last accessed May 23, 2013.
“15 New Mental Illnesses in the DSM-5,” The Wall Street Journal website, May 23, 2013; http://www.marketwatch.com/story/15-new-mental-illnesses-in-the-dsm-5-2013-05-22, last accessed online May 23, 2013.

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