Daily healthy eating could be declared a mental illness

PEOPLE who eat healthily every day or suffer temper tantrums could be deemed to be suffering from a mental disorder if proposed categories of mental illnesses are accepted.

The proposals contained in the next edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), due in 2013, have sparked international fury. Opponents say the manual will reclassify ordinary, clinically insignificant behaviour as a mental disorder.

If accepted, “no one will be normal,” critics claim.

The American Psychiatry Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is a world-respected book in the field of psychiatry that is referred by many in the profession as “the bible of psychiatry”. The manual lists mental disorders and explains how to diagnose them. Its newest and fifth edition, DSM-5, proposes to lower the threshold of what counts as mental disorder.

New categories of mental disorders include “psychosis risk syndrome” (a risk of experiencing psychosis), “temper dysregulation disorder” (temper tantrums), “orthorexia” (daily healthy eating) and “binge eating”.

“Concepts of mental illness change as society changes,” according to Dr Brendan Kelly, senior lecturer in psychiatry at the University College Dublin.

“The lines shift with social change so the diagnostic guidelines in the DSM-5 will reflect the clusters of behaviours that we have today. What was considered a mental disorder 50 years ago may not be considered one today. For example, homosexuality was a mental illness not too long ago and this diagnosis has been removed from diagnostic manuals in accordance with a changing society.”

Critics also believe that people who have been diagnosed with something like “psychosis risk syndrome” may be encouraged or coerced to have therapy or take medication, even if a psychosis has not appeared.

“These manuals are just guidelines for practitioners and are not used in an absolutist way,” Dr Kelly added.

“The American DSM-5 and the European equivalent, the International Classification of Diseases, (ICD-10), are called the bibles of psychiatry but this is certainly not the case. People are diagnosed and supported on an individual basis”.

Brian Howard, chief executive for Mental Health Ireland, said: “I find it very strange that a risk of anything could be deemed as a mental disorder”.


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