DSM-5: Is shyness a mental illness?

Shyness in a child, and depression following the death of a loved one, could be classed as mental illness under new guidelines. The move could result in millions of people being placed at risk of having a psychiatric disorder, experts have warned.

Changes to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) by the American Psychiatric Association, mean common traits including internet addiction, gambling and eccentric behaviour, can be deemed a medical problem.

Although this classification system is US based, it is used by clinicians and researchers across the world. There are concerns that the alterations could impact the way people think about mental illnesses.

The changes have been opposed by the Society. Professor Peter Kinderman, former Chair of the Society's Division of Clinical Psychology and a Chartered Psychologist, said in The Daily Telegraph: “Many people who are shy, bereaved, eccentric, or have unconventional romantic lives will suddenly find themselves labelled as 'mentally ill'. This isn't valid, isn't true, isn't humane. And it won't help decide what help a person needs.”

Simon Wessely of the Institute of Psychiatry at King's College London, told the Daily Mail that the move could have significant consequences - such as bookish children being thought to have Asperger's syndrome. Mr Wessely said: "We need to be very careful before further broadening the boundaries of illness and disorder."

You can hear more from Professor Kinderman discussing DSM-5 on BBC Radio 4's Today programme via the BBC's listen again service.

This news has received significant media interest from across the world, including Canada, India, and the USA.