Welcome to my blog, which speaks to parents, professionals who work with children, and policy makers. I aim to show how contemporary developmental science points us on a path to effective prevention, intervention, and treatment, with the aim of promoting healthy development and wellbeing of all children and families.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Where is the media coverage of the DSM V vote?

Last Sunday I awoke to a news story in our local paper, The Berkshire Eagle, about the vote by the American Psychiatric Association the previous day approving massive revisions for DSMV, the newest version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. The article stated:
Board members were tight lipped about the update, but its impact will be huge, affecting millions of children and adults worldwide (italics mine.)
Figuring that this would be big news, I asked my husband if we could delay our morning hike while I wrote a blog post about it. I was sure there would be an active public discussion on the subject.

But I was wrong. Mainstream media had virtually nothing on the story. There was not one word about the DSM vote in the New York Times.  The Boston Globe similarly did not cover the story. There was a brief mention on NPR's Morning Edition on Monday. Boston.com  had my piece as well as an article about Asperger's being dropped from the new version.

There was news on the blogs. Most striking was from Allen Frances, MD, professor of psychiatry at Duke University, who was chair of the DSM IV task force. On his Huffington Post blog he wrote:
This is the saddest moment in my 45 year career of studying, practicing, and teaching psychiatry. The Board of Trustees of the American Psychiatric Association has given its final approval to a deeply flawed DSM-5 containing many changes that seem clearly unsafe and scientifically unsound. My best advice to clinicians, to the press, and to the general public -- be skeptical and don't follow DSM-5 blindly down a road likely to lead to massive over-diagnosis and harmful over-medication. 
While he defends his colleagues against accusations that they have been influenced by big pharma, he  writes that:
The APA's deep dependence on the publishing profits generated by the DSM-5 business enterprise creates a far less pure motivation. There is an inherent and influential conflict of interest between the DSM-5 public trust and DSM-5 as a best seller... The current draft has been approved and is now being rushed prematurely to press with incomplete field testing for one reason only -- so that DSM-5 publishing profits can fill the big hole in APA's projected budget and return dividends on the exorbitant cost of 25 million dollars that has been charged to DSM-5 preparation.
When MGH psychiatrist Joseph Biederman was found guilty of violating conflict of interest rules in accepting large amounts of money from the pharmaceutical industry, the news was announced on July 2nd 2011, a Saturday of a holiday weekend. A number of bloggers suggested that this timing was deliberate: an effort to bury the story.

Some may suggest that the weekend DSMV vote and lack of media coverage is related to the power of the APA and big pharma to squash controversy. For the sake of children, families and adults who struggle with mental illness, I hope that there is a more benign explanation.


  1. I'm afraid there IS a more benign explanation, but it's not so benign, when you think about it.

    The public will accept the contents of DSM-5 as gospel. The diagnoses listed there will become reified. They will become REAL, despite Dr. Frances' warnings. It's unspeakably sad.

  2. Wow, heavy stuff. I've heard many concerning things about big pharma and mental illness before, but never the publishing industry! I do think my local Santa Cruz NPR radio affiliate had a discussion (about an hour or so?) on this topic the day the new DSM came out. I agree, and wonder why it wasn't a bigger national story.