Monday, December 03, 2012

APA’s DSM-V drops Asperger’s, adopts “gender dysphoria”

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Psi & caduceus (psychiatry)

The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM), the bible of mental and behavioral disorders, is currently being prepared for its fifth edition (to be released in May 2013), the first major revision in nearly 20 years, and there’s some buzz over a few of the changes that have been made. One that I found noteworthy is the noted exclusion of my own diagnosis, Asperger syndrome:

The term “Asperger’s disorder” will not appear in the DSM-5, the latest revision of the manual, and instead its symptoms will come under the newly added “autism spectrum disorder”, which is already used widely. That umbrella diagnosis will include children with severe autism, who often do not talk or interact, as well as those with milder forms.


Some on the panel opposed the idea of dropping the specific diagnosis for Asperger’s. People with that disorder often have high intelligence and vast knowledge on narrow subjects but lack social skills. Some Asperger’s families opposed any change, fearing their children will lose a diagnosis and no longer be eligible for special services, but experts have said this will not be the case.

From what I’ve read, the idea is to eliminate the superfluous categories and subdivisions of autism and to combine those with ASD on a more general scale of severity, ranging from mild social handicaps (such as I) to those who are incapable of interacting with anyone else coherently. I suppose it’s for the best, though I now wonder how this revision might affect my own diagnosis, considering how widely influential the DSM is, even abroad.

Also interesting, and rather more positive, is a change that many in the trans community have been awaiting:

The term “gender identity disorder”, for children and adults who strongly believe they were born the wrong gender, is being replaced with “gender dysphoria” to remove the stigma attached to the word “disorder”. Supporters equated the change with removing homosexuality as a mental illness in the diagnostic manual decades ago.

The fact that gender dysphoria is indicative of some ingrained atypicality is no reason to brand those who have it as “disordered” in any way, and it will be quite telling (albeit unsurprising) to see who will choose to double down on that particular term in the wake of this reclassification.

(via Joe. My. God.)