NIMH vs DSM-5: No One Wins, Patients Lose

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The flat out rejection of DSM-5 by National Institute of Mental Health is a sad moment for mental health and an unsafe one for our patients. The APA and NIMH are both letting us down, failing to be safe custodians for the mental health needs of our country.

DSM-5 certainly deserves rejecting. It offers a reckless hodgepodge of new diagnoses that will misidentify normals and subject them to unnecessary treatment and stigma.
The NIMH director may have hammered the nail in the DSM-5 coffin when he so harshly criticized its lack of validity.

But the NIMH statement went very far overboard with its implied promise that it would soon find a better way of sorting, understanding, and treating mental disorders. The media and internet are now alive with celebrations of this NiMH ‘kill shot’. There are chortlings that DSM-5 is dead on arrival and will perhaps take psychiatry down along with it.

This is misleading and dangerous stuff that is bad for the patients both institutions are meant to serve.

NIMH has gone wrong now in the very same way that DSM-5 has gone wrong in the past — making impossible to keep promises. The new NIMH research agenda is necessary and highly desirable — it makes sense to target simpler symptoms rather than complex DSM syndromes, especially since so far we have come up empty. And the new plan will further, and be furthered, by the big, new Obama investment in brain research. But the likely payoff is being wildly oversold. There is no easy solution to what is in fact an almost impossibly complex research problem.