Dr. Bruce Perry on the DSM

I just had the pleasure to attend a lecture by Dr. Bruce Perry. It was great, and if his books are as good as his lectures he may be my new hero. The topic was his “neurosequential therapeutics,” which sounds nerdy (and it is) but is much more intuitive and helpful than it is technical. The basic idea is that the developmental stage at which a client was traumatized is an important clue into what kinds of therapeutic activities will be helpful to them, and in what order and priority. Pre-verbal trauma is unlikely to be helped by cognitive therapy, for example.

Anyway, more on that when I get the time to read his books. Another thing I liked about Perry was his attitude towards the DSM, the mental health industry’s diagnostic Bible. Here’s my paraphrase of one of his tangents on the DSM:

The heart is a fairly simple organ. It’s a blood pump. Cardiologists know several hundred ways that the heart can get sick and all of them are diagnosed and named in terms of the physiology of the heart. The symptoms that bring the patient in, however, are few–often chest pain and shortness of breath.

The brain, on the other hand, is an extremely complex organ. The DSM lists several hundred psychological symptom clusters which ostensibly represent ways the brain gets sick. But none of them are diagnosed or named based on brain physiology. They are all named based on symptoms: Panic Disorder Without AgoraphobiaMajor Depressive Disorder With Postpartum Onset, etc.

If cardiologists followed this protocol, they would have only a few diagnoses, along the lines of Major Chest Pain Disorder With Shortness of Breath, Major Chest Pain Disorder Without Shortness of Breath, etc.

Funny!

[First published on Nathen’s Miraculous Escape]

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90 By 30

One of the heads of my Couples & Family Therapy program, Jeff Todahl, is launching an exciting and inspiring campaign this coming Saturday. It’s called “90 by 30,” referring to his intention to reduce domestic violence and child maltreatment by 90% by the year 2030 in Eugene and Springfield.  He announced the launch at a domestic violence awareness event I helped put on with the University of Oregon Men’s Center last fall. [Here’s the video of his talk. It’s good.] As an expert on domestic violence and part of the Trauma Healing Project in Eugene, he has decided:

1) We know how to do it–all of the programs necessary have been invented and proven effective in various parts of the US.

2) It is feasible to bring all of those programs into one area and virtually eliminate domestic violence and child maltreatment here.

3) Doing so will be a huge step toward the elimination of domestic violence and child maltreatment nationally and globally.

4) The elimination of domestic violence and child maltreatment would shrink the 943-page Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders to the size of a pamphlet. That is, it would mean a virtual elimination of mental health problems for humans.

If you are in Lane County and this sounds like an interesting project, join us for a panel presentation by Jeff and his collaborators February 5th, 2011, from 11am – 2pm at the University of Oregon. The event will be held in Room 220, HEDCO building, at 17th and Alder, Eugene, Oregon.

[First published on Nathen’s Miraculous Escape, January 30, 2011.]

Diagnosis

I read the following, by Steven Wolin, in Froma Walsh’s Spiritual Resources in Family Therapy, and it brought tears to my eyes. The “DSM” he mentions is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the medical-style Bible of human psychological problems:

“Now, the DSM-IV was written by people , many of them psychologists, who have figured out every conceivable thing that can go wrong with us, which is very impressive. But I would like to suggest that it’s fundamentally, unintentionally, and insidiously violent to name someone by what’s wrong with them.”

I underlined that quote and thought I’d want to write something about it here. In class that week, it became clear that just about every other person in my cohort had underlined the same passage. We have all just taken a class on DSM diagnosis, because we will have to do it, out there in the world. Insurance companies won’t pay for problems that don’t have medical-sounding names. Major depressive disorder? Here, have some money. Isolated from any kind of supportive community, except for your mom, who you can’t stand for some reason? Hey, get a real problem, preferably one that we have a pill for.

Anyway, I think we all underlined that passage in part because it was so refreshing, after thinking so much about diagnostic categories. It’s also because that quote captures the spirit of the Couples and Family Therapy program we are in, and we were selected by our facultybecause quotes like that would resonate with us. It’s also because it’s so dang true. When you hear how many mental health professionals talk about their clients, it can be awful. ”I’ve got a Borderline at five o’clock,” as if what really matters about that human being is that their behavior fits the diagnostic criteria for Borderline Personality Disorder.

[First published on Nathen’s Miraculous Escape, April 30, 2010.]

Only a Few More Days to Weigh in on Changes to the DSMOnly a Few More Days to Weigh in on Changes to the DSM

posted in February about how the committee that is redesigning the DSM is accepting feedback on their proposed changes. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is the book used around the world by clinicians to determine what kinds of human suffering count as mental disorders, what symptoms one has to show to qualify as having one of those disorders, and what what can get covered by insurance. The content of this book will shape the lives of those who will interact with the mental health system for the next generation. Being labeled with a mental disorder is a big deal, and which one you get can mean the difference between decent and indecent treatment. Personality Disorder? You’re pretty much screwed. Very few people think they can help you and no insurance will cover you. Adjustment Disorder? PTSD? You’re in luck, most likely. We’re all very hopeful for, and will pay for, your recovery.

If you’re life has in any way been affected by anything labeled a mental disorder, I encourage you to look at the appropriate proposed changes to your future and the future of your loved ones, and write them an email about what you think. You have until April 20, 2010.

Structural, Cross-Cutting, and General Classification Issues for DSM-5
Disorders Usually First Diagnosed in Infancy, Childhood, or Adolescence
Delirium, Dementia, Amnestic, and Other Cognitive Disorders
Mental Disorders Due to a General Medical Condition Not Elsewhere Classified
Substance-Related Disorders
Schizophrenia and Other Psychotic Disorders
Mood Disorders
Anxiety Disorders
Somatoform Disorders
Factitious Disorders
Dissociative Disorders
Sexual and Gender Identity Disorders
Eating Disorders
Sleep Disorders
Impulse-Control Disorders Not Elsewhere Classified
Adjustment Disorders
Personality Disorders
Other Conditions that May Be the Focus of Clinical Attention

[First published on Nathen’s Miraculous Escape, April 14, 2010.]

Posted in DSM

Weigh In On the DSM-V

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is revised every decade or so, and a revision is under way right now. Up until recently, there has been criticism that the proceedings were taking place in secret. This is not unusual, as I understand it, but it is significant for many people. Mental-health clinicians, for example, have to use the diagnostic categories in the DSMto label their clients, and if the categories and descriptions listed don’t coincide with their experiences or beliefs, this can be quite difficult. It is significant for mental-health clients, too, for complementary and even more personal reasons. What will happen to your diagnosis? In? Out? Changed? These decisions have a big impact on social issues, like stigma, and economic issues, like what insurance companies will pay for.

The DSM committee is proposing, for example, to subsume the diagnosis of Asperger’s Disorder into Autism Disorder. This seems to make a lot of sense, unless you or your child is benefiting from the existence of Asperger’s because of insurance company rules, state regulations, or other regulatory factors.

The content of the DSM is important to people for political reasons, too. For example, the third revision of the DSM eliminated homosexuality as a mental disorder. That was in 1973, for theDSM-III. (We’ve since had the DSM-III-RDSM-IV, and DSM-IV-TR. They are currently working on the DSM-V.) It may be hard to believe that being gay was an official Mental Disorder, but it was. People were even lobotomized for it: Here, let me “help” you with that unnatural sexual attraction by forcing an icepick in over one of your eyes, through your skull, to twist it in your brain. The removal of homosexuality from the DSM was very controversial in its day, but no one credible is fighting for it to go back in.

That is to say, the DSM can reflect the changing mores of society, which in turn influences the way society sees mental health and illness. This process can effect the quality of a lot of our lives. And now the DSM committee has revealed the changes they are contemplating and is asking for feedback. This is from their website:

“Your input, whether you are a clinician, a researcher, an administrator, or a person/family member affected by a mental disorder, is important to us.  We thank you for taking part in this historic process and look forward to receiving your feedback.”

You almost certainly fall into one of those categories. Take part in this opportunity! Of course, our input being “important” to them does not mean they will pay attention to it, but it can’t hurt to try. The worst that can happen is that you will be better informed about your mental-health system. Here are the categories that they are considering changes in. Click on them to read the proposed changes. To submit feedback, you have to register with them, but it only takes a minute:

Structural, Cross-Cutting, and General Classification Issues for DSM-5
Disorders Usually First Diagnosed in Infancy, Childhood, or Adolescence
Delirium, Dementia, Amnestic, and Other Cognitive Disorders
Mental Disorders Due to a General Medical Condition Not Elsewhere Classified
Substance-Related Disorders
Schizophrenia and Other Psychotic Disorders
Mood Disorders
Anxiety Disorders
Somatoform Disorders
Factitious Disorders
Dissociative Disorders
Sexual and Gender Identity Disorders
Eating Disorders
Sleep Disorders
Impulse-Control Disorders Not Elsewhere Classified
Adjustment Disorders
Personality Disorders
Other Conditions that May Be the Focus of Clinical Attention

[First published on Nathen’s Miraculous Escape, 23, 2010.]

Posted in DSM