Published in  
June 5, 2013

The thin places of sanity

The DSM-5 is out.

For those of you who don’t know what that is, the DSM (Diagnostic Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders) is the world’s foremost classification of mental illnesses – the psychotherapist’s ‘bible’; the greatest tool in a shrink’s utility belt, if you will. Over the years, new editions have been published, which supposedly ‘improve’ on previous definitions and identify other variations of behaviours as pathological. Clinical psychologists are trained to be conversant with these descriptive codifications of psychopathology, which we then use to determine how sane you are and diagnose your ‘illness’. Today, what is considered ‘sane’ behaviour is fading fast. ‘Sanity’ is becoming an endangered specie.

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The latest news is that grief… (remember grief?) is now considered a mental disorder. If your grief manifests in ‘illegitimate’ ways, takes longer than ‘usual’, or is applied towards the ‘wrong’ things, then you are crazy. Specifically, if you grieve for two weeks after the loss of a loved one, you have Major Depressive Disorder (psychologists like scary titles). Of course, making grief a mental disorder will be a bonanza for drug companies, but a disaster for grievers. Bereaved persons might have to shed tears ‘correctly’ and grieve undercover, or else they could be shipped off to guarded asylums where they will be filled with drugs specially created to cure ‘grief’. I hope one day we will recognize that the reductionistic tendency to medicalize and bombard life with predetermined definitions, classifications and structures – as is done with the DSM-5 – is itself a mental illness. However, I think, by the time we see this, it might be too late: we’d all be ‘mad’.