The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Fourth version. Text revision.
The title doesn’t even begin to grasp the enormity of this book (Book? Monster? Free weight? Friend?). Physically, it makes for a great dumbbell replacement. Emotionally, it makes you wince in fear a little the first time you open it. Mentally, it holds your attention with some of the most interesting, complex, scientific and political mental health issues and disorders you can possibly come across in our culture.
I say scientific because many of the disorders listed have been supported with empirical evidence and numerous studies. There are some disorders that we know to represent different ways of functioning than the “norm,” but we don’t always know how or why they are different and how they might impair an individual’s functioning.
I say political because this book is tied to current psychological trends and their political influences; its disorders may in some cases be defined by psychologists sitting around a table arguing whether grieving should last for 2 months, or 4 months, or 6 months… And the book, in doing this, reflects society and the politics that govern it. Case in point: homosexuality was not long ago considered a mental disorder.
The book, to be honest, can be kind of fun to read. Overwhelming, but incredibly comprehensive and insightful both into the human mind and into the way we treat mental health. Once you’ve gotten through the DSM, you supposedly know a lot. Or at least can say you’ve read a really big book.
The book is also more than a little scary. It’s scary to read because it is huge and because, as a mental health professional, it is hugely important to understand what’s in it. It’s scary in its existence because of its power to inform insurance policies, agency practices and individual clinician-client interactions.
When I get through it, I will be giving myself a big pat on the back. Except by that point, I may not remember to, as I will be more focused on the fact that I am held responsible for what’s in it in my practice as a counselor. As a professional-in-training I will be counseling and will be expected not only to have read the darn book, but to be able to use it to actually help people.
And, once that’s conquered… DSM-V will come out. Graduation: Summer 2013. New DSM: 2013. Here we go…