Editors of Psychiatry's Diagnostic Manual Admit Its Unreliability

If you pay any attention at all to the news, then you are aware of the growing number of reports regarding adverse and fatal side effects of certain psychiatric drugs and the number of lawsuits against the manufacturers.

In just the past few months, there have been four lawsuits filed by state attorneys general against different manufacturers of antipsychotic drugs for illegal marketing and fraud; 10,000 individual civil claims pending against one antipsychotic maker for failure to adequately warn of side effects; studies from the UK and New Zealand warning of the death risks connected to these drugs and the exposure of the alliance between the FDA and pharmaceutical makers.

Making the public aware of the dangers of these drugs will go a long way in saving lives.  Holding the manufacturers accountable will hopefully cause them to provide full disclosure of their drugs' side effects or, better yet, conclude that it is in their best interests to not even market drugs with severe and life-threatening side effects.

However, concentrating solely on the drugs and their side effects misses a much more important factor.  This factor is common to every case of psychiatric malpractice, psychiatric drug product liability and other mental health-related causes of action.  It is present regardless of whether the treatment is antipsychotic drugs, electric shock—even psychotherapy.  Concentration on this factor creates a pool of potential defendants and potential claims numbering in the tens of thousands, to be found in practically every city and state.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is the mental health practitioner's “billing bible.” It contains 374 descriptions of behaviors that the psychiatric and mental health establishment present as “mental disorders.” They have become widely promoted in the field of medicine to be equivalent to physical illnesses.  By the DSM's authors' own admission, they are not.

The introduction of the current edition (DSM IV), states the following:

  • “…no definition adequately specifies precise boundaries for the concept of 'mental disorder.'”

  • “Limitations of the Categorical Approach” states that mental disorders are not discrete entities with definable boundaries.

  • “Use of DSM-IV in Forensic Settings” gives the frailties of using the diagnoses in a forensic setting due to the “imperfect fit between the questions of ultimate concern to the law and the information contained in a clinical diagnosis.”

  • Twenty years ago, in the previous edition of DSM, the authors admitted that the etiology (cause) of mental disorders is unknown.  They however assured the reader that, “Undoubtedly, over time, some of the disorders of unknown etiology will be found to have specific biological etiologies…”  Currently, all mental disorders remain of unknown etiology.  Despite the appearance from time to time of news stories announcing a new theory of the cause of depression or schizophrenia, no actual proof has ever been provided—they remain nothing but theories.

A 1994 study* concluded, “…there is still not a single multi-site study showing that DSM (any version) is routinely used with high reliability by regular mental health clinicians.  Nor is there any credible evidence that any version…has greatly increased its reliability beyond the previous version.”

Another study, issued April 3, 2007 in the Archives of General Psychiatry, found that 25% of those diagnosed with depression were in fact only struggling with the normal mental fallout from a recent emotional blow, like a failed marriage, the loss of a job or the collapse of an investment.  This study was co-authored by Columbia University psychiatrist Michael B. First, who is also an editor of the current edition of DSM.

DSM chief author Robert Spitzer recently admitted on BBC TV: “What happened is that we made estimates of the prevalence of mental disorders totally descriptively, without considering that many of these conditions might be normal reactions which are not really disorders.  That's, that's the problem, because we were not looking at the context in which those conditions developed.”

In every case of psychiatric abuse that CCHR International has ever dealt with, if there was no life upset, then there was an underlying, neglected physical condition at the root of symptoms and behavior which was then wrongly labeled as a “mental disorder.” For instance, undetected brain tumors or food or environmental allergies which manifested as sleep disturbance or inexplicable sensations are often given a DSM diagnosis and then “treated” with one or more powerful, mind-altering, life-threatening psychiatric drugs.

DSM's authors state that they do not know the cause of any mental disorder.  So, it is not surprising that there are no objective tests for mental illness (if they don't know the cause, then what would they test?).  It is foreseeable that the psychiatric establishment will eventually have to concede that their diagnostic system is completely subjective and that no one ever labeled with a DSM disorder had any mental illness.

But psychiatrists and psychiatric expert witnesses are counting on plaintiffs and their attorneys to not be aware of the grave shortcomings of their diagnostic system.  Recently, CCHR International provided a personal injury attorney with information on the DSM's lack of scientific credibility.  She had this to say: “I did the deposition of the defendant's psychiatric expert. I did some major damage!  Defense counsel just about jumped out of their skin when I brought up the fact that the DSM says that there is the potential for misuse or misunderstanding in forensic psychiatry because of the imperfect fit between the ultimate concerns of the law and psychiatry!”

It may be the American Psychiatric Association's Fifth Amendment right to publish a book that catalogs behaviors and calls them mental disorders but when that theory is applied to the lives of individuals, with often catastrophic results, it becomes another issue entirely.

What psychiatric abuse victims need are attorneys who will file causes of action based on the fraudulent DSM diagnosis, which is nothing more than misdiagnosis.  This approach makes for a wide-open field.

* Stuart A. Kirk and Herb Kutchins, "The Myth of the Reliability of DSM," The Journal of Mind and Behavior 15, no. 1 & 2 (Spring 1994): 71-86.

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