Used by doctors and therapists all around the country, the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
is the closest thing America has to a bible of mental illness. Currently in its fourth edition, the DSM (as it's commonly called) classifies more than 200 disorders and their symptoms, from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder to Generalized Anxiety Disorder and everything in between. In so doing, say Herb Kutchins and Stuart Kirk, the DSM
applies the language of mental illness to everyday behavior, transforming ordinary reactions to life's vicissitudes into billable pathology.
In Making Us Crazy, Kutchins and Kirk have used 15 years of studying the DSM to produce a lengthy diatribe against its ever-growing list of psychiatric disorders and their overly inclusive symptoms, including bad handwriting, impulsive shopping sprees, and reckless driving. The DSM, they contend, is most influenced by the needs of the insurance industry; every illness comes with its own diagnostic code, widely used for insurance claim forms. Moreover, its choices of which disorders to include and exclude are widely influenced by social prejudices as well as special interests. Given the DSM's list of diagnostic criteria, it is possible to classify almost anyone with objectionable views or behavior that deviates from social norms as "crazy." But in doing so, any mental-health professional would be acting irresponsibly by ignoring the behavior's context--the one factor a reference such as the DSM cannot quantify.
From Library Journal
The American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) was first published in 1952 but has become increasingly important?and controversial?in the past few decades, as managed health care plans have pressured psychiatrists for more "scientific" diagnoses. Kutchins (social work, California State Univ., Sacramento) and Kirk (social welfare, UCLA) counter arguments that DSM is a nonpolitical compendium by examining the processes of advocacy and protest that led to the exclusion of homosexuality, the inclusion of posttraumatic stress disorder, controversies over the use of the Borderline Personality diagnosis, and the history of racial discrimination in the assignment of diagnostic categories. Their admirable book belongs in academic libraries. Smaller public libraries are better served by less specialized titles that make many of the same points, such as E. Fuller Torrey's Out of the Shadows: Confronting America's Mental Illness Crisis (LJ 2/1/97).?Mary Ann Hughes, Neill P.L., Pullman, Wash.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.