Mental Illness by the Book

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, is commonly known as the “bible” of psychiatry. Christopher Lane, Northwestern University English literature professor and author of Shyness: How Normal Behavior Became a Sickness, discusses the controversy around revising this manual.


Christopher Lane

Comments [6]

ellen from Manhattan

As a clinical social worker I used the DSM and found that almost always, clusters of symptoms "migrated" from one diagnosis to the other, just as in the case of physical ailments; it could be this, it could be that. So much of medicine is trial and error in which often the failure or success of a particular drug or treatment aids in determining the real problem. If the pills works, it was this disease, etc. As a leukemia patient, I noticed that in my file the first sentence included age, gender and the phrase "with a history of depression." I found that shocking since most of the clinicians I've seen in about my leukemia didn't know all the DSM varieties of depression and couldn't say how this piece of history would apply to my leukemia treatment. Watch out? This disease may make her sad? What's it doing in my leukemia file, much less leading it? I also have a history of colds,weight issues and myopia just to mention a few. None of those is in my leukemia file!

Dec. 18 2009 11:05 AM
Scott from Manhattan, New York

I should clarify that this is one of many topics chosen by the student. The whole course is not about the evolution of the DSM - only this project. It is a design course in the Design and Technology program at Parsons the New School for Design that regards dealing with information systems as one reason for confusion and dysfunction.

The course is titled "Things Fall Apart"

Dec. 18 2009 10:37 AM

what about the removal of gender identity disorder?

Dec. 18 2009 10:33 AM
Scott from Manhattan, New York

One of my students has developed a project in our course on the evolution of the DSM. In person the smallest letters are the equivalent of 2-4 point font and is about 15 feet x 15 feet.

You can see an image and a post of the project here...

She has done a digital and a hand drawn version and continues to work on the project.

Dec. 18 2009 10:32 AM
rj from NJ

If being unhappy with ones situation and unable to do much about it is deemed as depression, then all teenagers are depressed, and all parents of teenagers too are depressed. Please ask Mr Lane, if there have been any study why most teenagers tend to be unhappy/sad/irritable/dipressed etc etc.

Dec. 18 2009 10:06 AM
hjs from 11211

can a nation be mentally ill? a mass insanity?

Dec. 18 2009 09:41 AM

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