Large numbers of “normal” people are at risk of being labelled as psychiatric patients, British experts have warned.
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Sweeping changes to a diagnostic “bible” that influences practitioners around the world could make it far easier to be labelled with a psychological problem, it is claimed.
One suggestion of the US authors is a new diagnosis of “Psychosis Risk Syndrome” which singles out people thought to be at risk of developing a psychotic illness such as schizophrenia.
Individuals falling into this category might experience occasional mood changes, feelings of distress, anxiety or paranoia, or fleeting episodes of hearing voices.
In the past they might have been considered difficult or eccentric. Under the new proposals they could receive a diagnosis that affects their future lives and job prospects. Yet they may never develop “full blown” psychosis.
Other diagnoses under consideration include “mixed anxiety depression”, “binge eating, and “temper dysregulation disorder with dysphoria”.
In addition, the bar could be lowered on some common existing disorders, such as depression, so that more people are considered to have symptoms that warrant a diagnosis.
Professor Til Wykes, from the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London, today spoke of a trend that was “leaking into normality”.
She said: “It shrinks the pool of normality to a puddle, and there are going to be fewer people who won’t end up having a diagnosis of mental illness.”
Prof Wykes edits the Journal of Mental Health which carries a “health warning” about the proposals in its latest issue.
The changes have been put forward for discussion by a powerful group of US experts working on the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).