Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Change In The Weather

I don't understand this. Why would psychiatrists go through all of the trouble of defining a mental health problem, which has also proved compelling to the general public, before turning around and removing it from their primary diagnostic manual? The Vanishing Diagnosis For Asperger's Syndrome
It is one of the most intriguing labels in psychiatry. Children withAsperger’s syndrome, a mild form of autism, are socially awkward and often physically clumsy, but many are verbal prodigies, speaking in complex sentences at early ages, reading newspapers fluently by age 5 or 6 and acquiring expertise in some preferred topic — stegosaurs, clipper ships, Interstate highways — that will astonish adults and bore their playmates to tears.


But no sooner has Asperger consciousness awakened than the disorder seems headed for psychiatric obsolescence. Though it became an official part of the medical lexicon only in 1994, the experts who are revising psychiatry’s diagnostic manual have proposed to eliminate it from the new edition, due out in 2012.

If these experts have their way, Asperger’s syndrome and another mild form of autism, pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (P.D.D.-N.O.S. for short), will be folded into a single broad diagnosis, autism spectrum disorder — a category that encompasses autism’s entire range, or spectrum, from high-functioning to profoundly disabling.

Asperger's has proven to be a compelling syndrome, no doubt because its victims are often able to function well, despite having eccentric personalities and interests. Now, psychiatrists want to fold it into a much broader spectrum of autism, which would seem to unnecessarily stigmatize Asperger's people without doing anything to understand how to treat them. They might be better off with no diagnosis at all.

1 comment:

  1. I worked with over one hundred children in a community mental health setting and never used the diagnosis - a Pervasive Developmental Disorder involving severe impairments in social interactions and a restricted repertoire of behaviors with no substantial delays in cognitive, language, or self-help skills. There are other possible diagnoses that possibly explain such behavior. In general, it usually takes time to find accurate diagnosis even by clinicians. It appears, outside a mental health context, this diagnosis has been misunderstood and overused by lay people.