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Panel on mental illness manual criticized

A panel of psychiatrists charged with updating the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM, is being criticized over delays, disorganization and secrecy, the Washington Post reports.

Some critics allege that panel members are too inclined to create an official diagnosis for symptoms or behaviors that don’t necessarily amount to mental disorders.

According to the report, the issue is important because the DSM plays an enormous role in diagnosing mental illness in the United States. Wording in the reference manual can determine what treatments a person is prescribed, whether health insurance pays for it, what school and social services people are entitled to, and how long they can be committed by a court.

The Washington Post report mentions that Allen J. Frances, chairman of the committee that updated the current edition of the DSM, is concerned about aggressive tactics on the part of pharmaceutical companies eager for new customers.

In recent years, Frances said, those companies have been quick to capitalize on seemingly minor expansions made to categories in the current DSM by directly marketing to the public or to primary care doctors and OB-GYNs. Although primary care doctors and OB-GYNs are less trained in identifying and treating mental illness, Frances said, they prescribe the largest share of many psychiatric medications, including antidepressants.

Some of the most common antidepressants, Zoloft, Prozac, and other drugs categorized as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, have been linked to potentially serious birth defects in babies born to women who take them during their pregnancy.

Patients should consult their doctors before making any changes in their medication. A consultation with an SSRI lawyer is also important if there are significant injuries.

See the report here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/updates-to-psychiatric-guide-spur-controversy/2012/05/05/gIQATSbJ4T_story.html