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Thu Dec 13, 2012, 01:22 PM

A Tense Compromise on Defining Mental Disorders

They plotted a revolution, fell to debating among themselves, and in the end overturned very little except their own expectations.

But the effort itself was a valuable guide for anyone who has received a psychiatric diagnosis, or anyone who might get one.

This month, the American Psychiatric Association announced that its board of trustees had approved the fifth edition of the association’s influential diagnostic manual — the so-called bible of mental disorders — ending more than five years of sometimes acrimonious, and often very public, controversy.

The committee of doctors appointed by the psychiatric association had attempted to execute a paradigm shift, changing how mental disorders are conceived and posting its proposals online for the public to comment. And comment it did: Patient advocacy groups sounded off, objecting to proposed changes in the definitions of depression and Asperger syndrome, among other diagnoses. Outside academic researchers did, too. A few committee members quit in protest.


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