The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is Suddenly a Bestseller on Amazon – It’s Not Good for Nobody’s Mental Health


I haven’t thought much about the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders” since college, when it was often bedtime reading.

I was considering a future in forensic psychology before the newspapers stole my heart, which meant I had bad choice syndrome.

The DSM was as dry as the Sahara, even when describing conditions that looked fantastic. I once joked with a teacher that reading the DSM might create a spike in narcolepsy. She didn’t laugh.

Laughter is for laymen. The DSM is for clinicians who need a set of criteria before trying to figure out why you’re suddenly terrified of spiders or why you feel compelled to hoard Canadian Tire money in your underpants.

Doc, my private parts are saving up for MotoMaster carburetor cleaner.

Doc, my cat lights a cigarette and watches me when I sleep.

The DSM was for aspiring psychiatrists what “Grey’s Anatomy” was for medical students interested in surgery. For everyone outside of psychology, buying the DSM made about as much sense as investing in a riding mower when you live in a condo. The DSM was intended for experts, not laypersons.

But in the age of Dr. Google and self-diagnosis, the DSM is suddenly as popular as “Men are from Mars, women are from Venus,” circa 1992. As Axios noted on Wednesday: “The bible of psychiatrist is suddenly a surprise bestseller.”

I love the “Why It Matters” section of an Axios story, which includes a preamble and digestible bullet points for a model like me to follow: “A record shortage of mental health care providers, combined with an unprecedented demand for psychological support, has led to a rise in self-diagnosis…”

Cue the balls:

  • “With so many sources of emotional stress – the pandemic, gun violence, urban crime, the war in Ukraine – everyone wants to know if their own difficult feelings could be signs of something bigger.”
  • “The number of people with symptoms of anxiety and depression has tripled during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”

It’s strange to see the DSM perched at No. 1 on an Amazon bestseller chart in 2022, 70 years after the first version was released. I remain a pro-book and pro-reading absolutist. But I must warn my compatriots against self-diagnosing possible mental disorders in these crazy times.

We live in a time of pathologization. We have become armchair psychiatrists. I often call the former US president a malignant narcissist or a pathological liar – and I’ve never met the self-centered, deceitful lunatic.

Before, people were people. Now we consider people as undiagnosed.

Jim from marketing just rearranged the icons on his desktop 30 times before the PowerPoint presentation? Obviously, he has obsessive-compulsive disorder. Priyanka from Fake Accounts Receivable smiled and said she fixed a typo in your invoice? What a passive-aggressive little dog!

Some conditions in the DSM, especially under the heading “Disturbing, Impulse Control, and Conduct Disorders,” are easy to rule out. If you’ve never dreamed of pouring kerosene into a barn and lighting a match, watching it burn, you probably don’t need treatment for pyromania. I don’t steal cauliflower. It is not necessary for personal use – it is in fact vile – and it brings no financial gain.

So, phew, I’m not a kleptomaniac.

That said, if Weekend Chores Phobia enters the DSM, I have this disease. I also suffer from a fear of pharmaceutical ads on cable. They begin by stating symptoms that could apply to anyone. Then they go on to a quick list of side effects that should terrify everyone.

Gosh, yes, my mouth is dry. But do I really want to run the risk of thrush?

Imagine if a mattress ad warned of possible spontaneous combustion.

Most of the DSM is a gray area that requires professional assessment. Robert Smith, professor of psychiatry at Michigan State University, told Axios that this month’s high sales may reflect “a frantic attempt to get help somewhere, but it won’t help people.” .

Why? “The criteria in DSM, they are not easy to understand. In fact, primary care physicians don’t use them because they’re hard to understand. »

If your GP isn’t clear about the vagaries of borderline personality disorder, you probably shouldn’t try to confirm the diagnosis by ordering a book. In popular culture, schizophrenia is often confused with multiple personality disorder. I’m pretty sure my wife thinks I have severe mutism. I do not know. I just have no choice but to listen in silence because she keeps talking about all the weekend chores I have to do and, damn it, is it a spider?

We are facing a real mental health crisis and the pandemic has only amplified our unhappiness. I have friends who are really struggling. But that doesn’t mean we should self-diagnose our own psychological states.

This will only complicate the problem.

Would you be comfortable diagnosing liver cancer or coronary arrhythmia yourself? Exactly. You would want doctors, medical sciences, tests and expert opinions. You would want a system in your personal corner.

Our minds and personalities deserve the same.

The DSM, I can tell you with personal certainty, is not fun reading.

Many things are even impossible to understand.

If you need mental health help, don’t look for it on Amazon.

Talk to a doctor not named Google.


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