Psychiatry’s New Rules Threaten to Turn Grieving Into a Sickness
2012 12 12

By Brandon Keim | Wired.com



A controversial change to official psychiatric guidelines for depression has raised fears that grief over the death of loved ones will be classified as clinical depression, turning a basic part of what it means to be human into a recognized sickness.

The change, contained in new revisions to the DSM-5, a set of standards used to categorize mental illness, eliminates the so-called bereavement exclusion, which exempts grieving people from diagnoses of depression for two months unless their symptoms are self-destructively extreme. Under the new standards, depression can be more easily diagnosed just two weeks after a death.

“Virtually everyone who is grieving has milder symptoms of depression. What the bereavement exclusion did is separate the normal responses from the severe ones,” such as feelings of worthlessness or suicidal impulses, said psychiatrist Jerome Wakefield of New York University, who studies bereavement and depression.

“This goes over a line. If you can pathologize this kind of feeling, any kind of suffering can be a disorder. It’s a disagreement over the boundaries of normality,” Wakefield said. “What kind of world do you want to have? One where intense, negative feelings we don’t like are labeled as disorders, or a world where people grieve?”

Defenders of the bereavement exclusion’s removal, officially announced Dec. 1 by the American Psychiatric Association, say worries of pathologized grief are overblown. They argue that though not all grieving is depressive, grief-related depression isn’t fundamentally different from what’s considered normal depression. As a result, they say the exclusion makes it unnecessarily difficult for clinicians to deal with bereaved people who legitimately need help.

“I think a good clinician can separate the two,” said Jan Fawcett, a University of New Mexico psychiatrist and head of the DSM-5 working group that authored the change, of normal grief and clinical depression. “We feel that clinicians have been making this judgment all along.”

The DSM, or Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, represents American psychiatry’s official tool for deciding between mental disorders and normality. First drafted in 1952, it’s now known euphemistically as psychiatry’s Bible, used by doctors, insurance companies, the legal system, and most any social institution that deals formally with mental health.

The DSM has been revised four times since its original publication, with the latest changes developed over the last seven years and culminating in the recent approval. These have been perhaps the most controversial changes ever, partly because they’re the first made in the cacophonous media environment of the internet age, but also because of the changes themselves. New conditions include hoarding, severe pre-menstrual syndrome, binge eating, temper tantrums and everyday forgetting among the elderly. Critics say these represent a tendency in modern psychiatry to medicalize the normal range of human experience.

Far and away the most controversial change is eliminating the bereavement exclusion, which discouraged clinicians from diagnosing as depressed grieving people whose symptoms were actually part of a normal, necessary emotional process, though in other people they’d be considered formal grounds for depression.

[...]


Read the full article at: wired.com





Related Articles
The Sisterhood of Grief
Good Grief: Is there a better way to be bereaved?
Grieving mothers adopt life-like dolls
Diagnosing Hollywood - Mental Illness in Film
The Americanization of Mental Illness
Salon Hit Piece Implies Truth Seeking Is A Mental Illness


Latest News from our Front Page

Pre-historic tokens used in conjunction with cuneiform
2014 07 22
An archaeological dig in southeast Turkey has uncovered a large number of clay tokens that were used as records of trade until the advent of writing, or so it had been believed. But a new find of tokens, dates from a time when writing was commonplace – thousands of years after it was previously assumed this technology had become obsolete. Researchers ...
Are immigration opponents Nazis?
2014 07 22
It seems the usual suspects are calling anyone who opposes unlimited immigration to be a "Nazi". The Left seems to be in constant fear of "Nazis" that lurk in public policy discussions and I assume under their beds. If you oppose any Leftist position, you are a.... take a wild guess...wait for it.... a NAZI! Tim Wise recently went ...
What Did US Spy Satellites See in Ukraine?
2014 07 22
Exclusive: The U.S. media’s Ukraine bias has been obvious, siding with the Kiev regime and bashing ethnic Russian rebels and Russia’s President Putin. But now – with the scramble to blame Putin for the Malaysia Airlines shoot-down – the shoddy journalism has grown truly dangerous, says Robert Parry. In the heat of the U.S. media’s latest war hysteria – rushing to ...
Oh, Great: Robots Are Set to Conduct National Security Clearance Interviews
2014 07 22
Advancing a career in the US government might soon require an interview with a computer-generated head who wants to know about that time you took ketamine. Psychologists at the National Center for Credibility Assessment (NCCA) are developing an interview system that uses a responsive on-screen avatar for the first stage of the national security clearance process. Initial screening for a variety ...
Is Anything on the Internet Real Anymore?
2014 07 22
Is there anybody…out there? I promise I’m a real person asking this question and typing this article…but beyond that, I can’t promise much else about anything you or I see on the Internet. This article on ZDNet, “GCHQ’s dark arts: Leaked documents reveal online manipulation, Facebook, YouTube snooping,” confirms — beyond a shadow of any possible doubt — that a barrage of ...
More News »