Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Why people should be concerned with the impending revision of the DSM

An excellent but long post from the fine folks at feministing.com, with only a portion quoted below

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) has been called the "bible of mental illness" because it lists and defines all of the "official" psychiatric diagnoses according to the American Psychiatric Association. The DSM is in the early stages of undergoing its 5th major revision; each previous revision has seen the total number of mental disorders recognized (some might say invented) by the APA greatly increase. Last year, trans activists were particularly concerned to learn that Ken Zucker and Ray Blanchard had been named to play critical lead roles in determining the language of the DSM sections focusing on gender and sexuality, especially given that these researchers are well known for forwarding theories and therapies that are especially pathologizing and stigmatizing to gender-variant people.

Blanchard has recently presented some of his suggestions to revise the "Paraphilia" section of the DSM. In the past, this section has generally received little attention from feminists, as it has been primarily limited to several sexual crimes (e.g., pedophilia, frotteurism and exhibitionism) and a handful of other generally consensual but unnecessarily stigmatized sexual acts (such as fetishism and BDSM) that are considered "atypical" by sex researchers. However, there are two aspects of the proposed Paraphilia section revision that should be of great concern to feminists, as well as anyone else who is interested in gender and sexual equality.

Expanding "Paraphilia"

First, Blanchard is proposing a significant expansion of the DSM's definition of "paraphilia" to include:

"any intense and persistent sexual interest other than sexual interest in genital stimulation or preparatory fondling with phenotypically normal, consenting adult human partners."

The first concern here is the term "phenotypically normal" (meaning "normal" with regards to observable anatomical or behavioral traits). Thus, according to this definition, attraction to any person deemed by sex researchers to be "abnormal" or "atypical" could conceivably be diagnosed as paraphilic. So, do you happen to be attracted to, or in a relationship with, someone who is differently-abled or differently-sized? Or someone who is gender-variant in some way? Well congratulations, you may now be diagnosed with a paraphilia!

Seriously.

Blanchard and other like-minded sex researchers have coined words like Gynandromorphophilia (attraction to trans women), Andromimetophilia (attraction to trans men), Abasiophilia (attraction to people who are physically disabled), Acrotomophilia (attraction to amputees), Gerontophilia (attraction to elderly people), Fat Fetishism (attraction to fat people), etc., and have forwarded them in the medical literature to denote the presumed "paraphilic" nature of such attractions.

This tendency reinforces the cultural belief that young, thin, able-bodied cisgender women and men are the only legitimate objects of sexual desire, and that you must be mentally disordered in some way if you are attracted to someone who falls outside of this ideal. It's bad enough that such cultural norms exist in the first place, but to codify them in the DSM is a truly terrifying prospect.

Another frightening aspect of Blanchard's proposal is that any sexual interest other than "genital stimulation or preparatory fondling" is now, by definition, a paraphilia.

In his presentation, he claimed that paraphilias should include all "erotic interests that are not focused on copulatory or precopulatory behaviors, or the equivalent behaviors in same-sex adult partners." Copulatory is defined as related to coitus or sexual intercourse (i.e., penetration sex). So, essentially, all forms of sexual arousal and expression that are not centered around penetration sex may now be considered paraphilias.


So, do you and your partner occasionally role-play or talk dirty to one another over the phone? Or engage in arousing play that is not intended to necessarily lead to "doing the deed"? Do you masturbate? Do you get a sexual charge from wearing a particularly sexy outfit or performing any act that falls outside of "genital stimulation or preparatory fondling"? Well, then congratulations, you can be diagnosed with a paraphilia!

1 comment:

Quiact said...

The Diagnostics and Statistical Manual (DSM), the Shrink's bible, has been around for over 50 years. Within this manual, there are now possibly nearly 300 mental disorders identified or invented by others.

As a dictionary of suspected mental illnesses, many redefined diagnoses are added to this manual with each edition, and how such disorders are classified and assessed.

On occasion, a mental disorder is deleted from the DSM, such as homosexuality in the early 1970s. Its purpose, this manual, is to assist mental health professionals to diagnose and classify mental disorders.

How a group sponsored by for profit pharmaceutical industry corporations that promote psychotropic drugs for various mental issues that may or may not fully exist make the determinations that they do while maintaining objectivity is a phenomenon.

Published and designed by the American Psychiatric Association (APA), the DSM is also used, I understand, for seeking mental diagnostic criteria to assure reimbursement.

The DSM is organized in part by the following:

I- Mental disorders
II- mental conditions
III- Physical disorders/syndromes, medical conditions (co-morbidity)
IV- Mental disorder suspected etiology
V- Pediatric assessments

The APA has historically directed the creation of each edition of the DSM, and assigns selected task force members to create this manual. This situation has proven to be controversial.

The next DSM involves 27 people. About 80 percent of these individuals are male, and only 4 members are not medical doctors. Most have had relationships with the NIH, and about 25 percent of these task force members have had relationships with the WHO.

Historically, at least a third of task force members have had, or do, have often monetary pharmaceutical industry ties in some way.

This makes sense, as about one third of the APAs total financing is from the pharmaceutical industry.

The APA required this task force for the next DSM edition to sign non-disclosure agreements- which is rather absurd and pointless. Lack of transparency equals lack of credibility because of these agreements of the content of the next DSM. It opposes any recovery model necessary regarding such disorders, I believe.

The DSM should be evaluated by another unrelated task force or a peer review of sorts to assure objectivity. This is particularly of concern presently, as many more are diagnosed with mental dysfunctions presently at a concerning rate- with very young children in particular.

Dan Abshear