mental disorders


The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is a giant catalog of behaviors and other complaints that cause people to suffer psychologically. If a person claims or admits to having a constellation of problems which fits one of the categories in the DSM, they can be diagnosed with that Mental Disorder. Most people who make these diagnoses as part of their living take this process very seriously, distinguishing between subtypes of ADHD in a client with the same seriousness as a doctor distinguishing between subtypes of breast cancer in a patient. This book has the answers. It is like the Bible for mental health diagnosticians.

Every decade or so, we get a new version of our Bible. Here are the six versions we’ve had since 1958.

DSMs

We are about to get a new version this spring. This change-over is both exciting and awkward in a way that I don’t imagine new versions of other Bibles can be. When a new version of the Christian Bible come out, I imagine that the impact is mostly academic, and the new version may or may not catch on. With a new DSM, there is no choice for diagnosticians or their clients. In 1973, you could diagnose someone with Homosexuality Disorder. In 1975, you could not. The debate was over.

More often than disappearing, new disorders become available. Asperger’s Disorder, for example, appeared in version IV, in 1994. At other times the categories change in big ways, such as the much-talked-about removal of Asperger’s Disorder in the upcoming version V in favor of a more inclusive “Autism Spectrum.”

The awkwardness of this process is especially salient to me, just starting my internship as a family therapist. Since I live in California, I must do my 3,000 client-contact hours for licensure at a community clinic, which means I have to diagnose each of my clients with a qualifying Mental Disorder. To that end, I have been boning up on my diagnostic criteria in the DSM-IV-TRI have to be really good at this to get the resources flowing for my clients. At the same time, I am aware that in a matter of weeks I will be learning not only new criteria and new Mental Disorders, but a whole new diagnostic process spelled out in the DSM-V.

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PTSD was recognized in the early 1970s and formalized in 1980, largely the result of work by and with US veterans of the war in Vietnam. Many people who think about these things consider this recognition to be a turning point in psychological diagnosis. In fact, one way of thinking about psychological diagnosis is that most of what we now call Mental Disorders are basically variants of PTSD–the ways that different people respond to different traumas. If the committee working on version V of the DSM were to humor us, they might rename the tome The North American and European Catalog of Post-Traumatic Stress Behavior Patterns Plus a Few Other Human Difficulties.

Here’s a fuzzy map from the wikipedia article, showing PTSD rates. The darker the red, the more PTSD, and the lighter the yellow, the less:

Here are the criteria, word for word, from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV-TR, pages 467 and 468:

Diagnostic criteria for 309.81 Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

A. The person has been exposed to a traumatic event in which both of the following were present:

(1) the person experienced, witnessed, or was confronted with an event or events that involved actual or threatened death or serious injury, or a threat to the physical integrity of self or others

(2) the person’s response involved intense fear, helplessness, or horror. Note: In children, this may be expressed instead by disorganized or agitated behavior

B. The traumatic event is persistently reexperienced in one (or more) of the following ways:

(1) recurrent and intrusive distressing recollections of the event, including images, thoughts, or perceptions. Note: In young children, repetitive play may occur in which themes or aspects of the trauma are expressed.

(2) recurrent distressing dreams of the event. Note: In children, there may be frightening dreams without recognizable content.

(3) acting or feeling as if the traumatic event were recurring (includes a sense of reliving the experience, illusions, hallucinations, and dissociative flashback episodes, including those that occur on awakening or when intoxicated). Note: In young children, trauma-specific reenactment may occur.

(4) intense psychological distress at exposure to internal or external cues that symbolize or resemble an aspect of the traumatic event

(5) physiological reactivity on exposure to internal or external cues that symbolize or resemble an aspect of the traumatic event

C. Persistent avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma and numbing of general responsiveness (not present before the trauma), as indicated by three (or More ) of the following:

(1) efforts to avoid thoughts, feelings, or conversations associated with the trauma

(2) efforts to avoid activities, places, or people that arouse recollections of the trauma

(3) inability to recall an important aspect of the trauma

(4) markedly diminished interest or participation in significant activities

(5) feeling of detachment or estrangement from others

(6) restricted range of affect (e.g., unable to have loving feelings)

(7) sense of a foreshortened future (e.g., does not expect to have a career, marriage, children, or a normal life span)

D. Persistent symptoms of increased arousal (not present before trauma), as indicated by two (or more) of the following:

(1) difficulty falling or staying asleep

(2) irritability or outbursts of anger

(3) difficulty concentrating

(4) hypervigilance

(5) exaggerated startle response

E. Duration of the disturbance (symptoms in Criteria B, C, and D) is more than 1 month.

F. The distrubance causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.

Specify if:

Acute: if duration of symptoms is less than 3 months

Chronic: if duration of symptoms is 3 months or more

Specify if:

With Delayed Onset: if onset of symptoms is at least 6 months after the stressor

There is quite a bit of controversy about it, but it looks as if Asperger’s Disorder will only be around for a couple more years. This diagnosis will probably get the axe in the upcoming DSM-V, when it arrives, subsumed into the so-called Autism Spectrum. It will be interesting to watch how a change in language will change how we think about a certain constellation of behaviors. If you’re interested, I have a link here to the proposed changes to the DSM.

Please read my disclaimer here about diagnosing yourself or anyone you know. The short version is, you can’t do it.

And, for the time being, here are the diagnostic criteria, word-for-word from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Text Revision, page 84. As with Autistic Disorder, note the absence of qualities we may think of as common in Asperger’s Disorder, such as being picky about food or other things, being sensitive to things like noise or texture, any visual processing abnormalities such as non-susceptibility to visual illusion, being easily upset, self-harming behaviors, high IQ or “splinter skills.” None of these are considered in the diagnosis.

Diagnostic criteria for 299.80 Asperger’s Disorder

A. Qualitative impairment in social interaction, as manifested by at least two of the following:

(1) marked impairment in the use of multiple nonverbal behaviors such as eye-to-eye gaze, facial expression, body postures, and gestures to regulate social interaction

(2) failure to develop peer relationships appropriate to developmental level

(3) a lack of spontaneous seeking to share enjoyment, interests, or achievements with other people (e.g., by a lack of showing, bringing, or pointing out objects of interest to other people)

(4) lack of social or emotional reciprocity

B. Restricted repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests, and activities, as manifested by at least one of the following:

(1) encompassing preoccupation with one or more stereotyped and restricted patterns of interest that is abnormal either in intensity or focus

(2) apparently inflexible adherence to specific, nonfunctional routines or rituals

(3) stereotyped and repetitive motor mannerisms (e.g., hand or finger flapping or twisting, or complex whole-body movements)

(4) persistent preoccupation with parts of objects

C. The disturbance causes clinically significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.

D. There is no clinically significant general delay in language (e.g., single words used by age 2 years, communicative phrases used by age 3 years).

E. There is no clinically significant delay in cognitive development or in the development of age-appropriate self-help skill, adaptive behavior (other than in social interaction), and curiosity about the environment in childhood.

F. Criteria are not met for another specific Pervasive Developmental Disorder or Schizophrenia.

Please remember that I post diagnostic criteria here because it is interesting to know what kinds of behaviors can get you what kinds of diagnoses, not so you can diagnose yourself, anyone in your family, or any of your friends. You just cannot be objective enough and it often leads to people walking around thinking they have Mental Disorders that they do not have. This is especially not good if that person is a child.

This may be especially true for Autism-Spectrum Disorders, which require a team of experts collaborating with the family to make a good diagnosis, including ideally a developmental pediatrician, a psychologist, a social worker, a speech language specialist, an occupational therapist, and a physical therapist. Also maybe a family advocate and an early interventionist.  And that’s just for a medical diagnosis. It varies by state, but often educational eligibility requires, additionally, a school psychologist, a behavior specialist, and an autism specialist.

Notice in the criteria below that diagnosis is made based on social problems, language problems, and repetitive/stereotyped behaviors. Other qualities that we may associate with Autism, such as pickiness about food or other things, sensitivity to noise or textures, visual processing problems, being easily upset, self-harming behaviors, and “splinter skills” are not part of a diagnosis for Autistic Disorder. Even with extreme versions of those qualities, you do not an AD diagnosis without fitting the criteria below.

And here are the criteria, word for word from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Text Revision (p. 75):

Diagnostic criteria for 299.00 Autistic Disorder

A. A total of six (or more) items from (1), (2), and (3), with at least two from (1), and one each from (2) and (3):

(1) qualitative impairment in social interaction, as manifested by at least two of the following:

(a) marked impairment in the use of multiple nonverbal behaviors such as eye-to-eye gaze, facial expression, body postures, and gestures to regulate social interaction.

(b) failure to develop peer relationships appropriate to developmental level

(c) a lack of spontaneous seeking to share enjoyment, interests, or achievements with other people (e.g., by a lack of showing, bringing, or pointing out objects of interest)

(d) lack of social or emotional reciprocity

(2) qualitative impairments in communication as manifested by at least one of the following:

(a) delay in, or total lack of, the development of spoken language (not accompanied by an attempt to compensate through alternative modes of communication such as gesture or mime)

(b) in individuals with adequate speech, marked impairment in the ability to initiate or sustain a conversation with others

(c) stereotyped and repetitive use of language or idiosyncratic language

(d) lack of varied, spontaneous make-believe play or social imitative play appropriate to developmental level

(3) restricted repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests, and activities, as manifested by at least one of the following:

(a) encompassing preoccupation with one or more stereotyped and restricted patterns of interest that is abnormal either in intensity or focus

(b) apparently inflexible adherence to specific, nonfunctional routines or rituals

(c) stereotyped and repetitive motor mannerisms (e.g., hand or finger flapping or twisting, or complex whole-body movements)

(d) persistent preoccupation with parts of objects

B. Delays or abnormal functioning in at least one of the following areas, with onset prior to age 3 years: (1) social interaction, (2) language as used in social communication, or (3) symbolic or imaginative play.

C. The disturbance is not better accounted for by Rett’s Disorder or Childhood Disintegrative Disorder.

One of the heads of my Couples & Family Therapy program, Jeff Todahl, is launching an exciting and inspiring campaign this coming Saturday. It’s called “90 by 30,” referring to his intention to reduce domestic violence and child maltreatment by 90% by the year 2030 in Eugene and Springfield.  He announced the launch at a domestic violence awareness event I helped put on with the University of Oregon Men’s Center last fall. [Here’s the video of his talk. It’s good.] As an expert on domestic violence and part of the Trauma Healing Project in Eugene, he has decided:

1) We know how to do it–all of the programs necessary have been invented and proven effective in various parts of the US.

2) It is feasible to bring all of those programs into one area and virtually eliminate domestic violence and child maltreatment here.

3) Doing so will be a huge step toward the elimination of domestic violence and child maltreatment nationally and globally.

4) The elimination of domestic violence and child maltreatment would shrink the 943-page Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders to the size of a pamphlet. That is, it would mean a virtual elimination of mental health problems for humans.

If you are in Lane County and this sounds like an interesting project, join us for a panel presentation by Jeff and his collaborators February 5th, 2011, from 11am – 2pm at the University of Oregon. The event will be held in Room 220, HEDCO building, at 17th and Alder, Eugene, Oregon.

I attended a lecture today about addiction where the lecturer claimed that the American Medical Association requires that a phenomenon meet the following criteria to be considered a disease:

1) It must be progressive

2) It must manifest identifiable symptoms

3) It must occur chronically in affected individuals

4) It must be fatal if left untreated

That makes some things obvious diseases. Cancers, for example. There are many things that we consider diseases that do not fit these criteria, though. I believe that obesity, for example, is not officially considered a disease because it is not fatal. It’s correlated with many fatal conditions but isn’t fatal on its own. Most mental disorders fail to meet this criteria too. Anorexia is fatal if untreated, but anxiety disorders, dissociative disorders, ADHD, learning disorders, conduct disorders, psychotic disorders, and dissociative disorders and many others are not. There is a pretty good case to make for  alcoholism and some other addictions meeting these criteria. Disorders that are associated with suicidality, too, might qualify, like severe depression, and possibly “gender identity disorder,” though GID may not be progressive and so fail the first criteria.

The existence of Gender Identity Disorder as an official mental disorder is troubling to the trans folks I know. They think of their condition they way most people now think about homosexuality: It’s just another normal way to be a human being that makes people who don’t understand it so afraid that they’ve called it a disorder. Some people are just born into bodies that don’t match their psychological gender.

There are other problems. There is the DSM’s requirement to specify whether the diagnosed individual is attracted to males, females, both, or neither. If homosexuality is not a mental disorder, why should it matter clinically what genders a transsexual is attracted to? Then there’s the fact that GID is in the DSM right next to the sexual disorders like sexual sadism, masochism, and pedophilia. What is the connection?

So in a way, it would be great to get GID removed from the DSM, like homosexuality was in the 1970s. Unfortunately, if GID were not an official mental disorder, insurance companies wouldn’t pay for the expensive surgeries and hormone treatments involved in transitioning. According to my friends, living in a body of the wrong sex is so painful and humiliating that many pre-operation trans folks kill themselves, while suicide is rare for those who do who get the operations. So if you are poor and trans, your life may depend on GID being an official mental disorder.

There may be some changes coming to the diagnosis (see here) in the upcoming DSM-V, and my friends are saying they sound somewhat better. Here’s how they stand right now, in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV-TR:

Diagnostic criteria for Gender Identity Disorder

A. A strong and persistent cross-gender identification (not merely a desire for any perceived cultural advantages of being the other sex).

In children, the disturbance is manifested by four (or more) of the following:

(1) repeatedly stated desire to be, or insistence that he or she is, the other sex

(2) in boys, preference for cross-dressing or simulating female attire; in girls, insistence on wearing only stereotypical masculine clothing

(3) strong and persistent preferences for cross-sex roles in make-believe play or persistent fantasies of being the other sex

(4) intense desire to participate in the stereotypical games and pastimes of the other sex

(5) strong preference for playmates of the other sex

In adolescents and adults, the disturbance is manifested by symptoms such as a stated desire to be the other sex, frequent passing as the other sex, desire to live or be treated as the other sex, or the conviction that he or she has the typical feelings and reactions of the other sex.

B. Persistent discomfort with his or her sex or sense of inappropriateness in the gender role of that sex.

In children, the disturbance is manifested by any of the following: in boys, assertion that his penis or testes are disgusting or will disappear or assertion that it would be better not to have a penis, or aversion toward rough-and-tumble play and rejection of male  stereotypical toys, haves, and activities; in girls, rejection of urinating in a sitting position, assertion that she has or will grow a penis, or assertion that she does not want to grow breasts or menstruate, or marked aversion toward normative feminine clothing.

In adolescents and adults, the disturbance is manifested by symptoms such as preoccupation with getting rid of primary and secondary sex characteristics (e.g., request for hormones, surgery, or other procedures to physically alter sexual characteristics to simulate the other sex) or belief that he or she was born the wrong sex.

C. The disturbance is not concurrent with a physical intersex condition.

D. The disturbance causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.

Code based on current age:

302.6     Gender Identity Disorder in Children

302.85   Gender Identity Disorder in Adolescents or Adults

Specify if (for sexually mature individuals):

Sexually Attracted to Males

Sexually Attracted to Females

Sexually Attracted to Both

Sexually Attracted to Neither

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