Psychologists petition against DSM 5

Several divisions of the American Psychological Association have signed an open letter highly critical of DSM 5 – the fifth edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. The psychologists are inviting mental health professionals and mental health organisations to sign a petition addressed to the DSM 5 Task Force of the Psychiatric Association.

The letter summarises what the psychologists see as the dangers of DSM 5, including reckless expansion of the diagnostic system (through the inclusion of untested new diagnoses and reduced thresholds for old ones), the lack of scientific rigour and independent review, and dimensional proposals that are too complex to be used by clinicians.

In July the British Psychological Society issued its own statement criticising DSM 5 for being based on social norms and subjective judgement, and for locating problems within individuals rather than recognising the role of social causes, such as poverty. The Society also had concerns with specific conditions found in DSM-5, including the proposed new conditions of 'attenuated psychosis syndrome' (the presence of psychotic-like symptoms without a full disconnect from reality) and 'disruptive mood dysregulation disorder' (excessive temper tantrums).

The BPS said the former was “very worrying [as] it could be seen as an opportunity to stigmatise eccentric people, and to lower the threshold for achieving a diagnosis of psychosis”.