A loose-limbed, skeptically informed critique of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, with particular interest in its forthcoming, fifth incarnation.
Like it or not, the DSM is a controversial book from almost any approach, and Mother Jones contributor Greenberg (Manufacturing Depression, 2010, etc.) explores them all in this rangy commentary. The DSM has been accused of corruption, infected by Big Pharma looking for new targets and doctors looking for new patients, and its editors have been accused of deception, evasion and secrecy as they garner millions in profit for the American Psychiatric Association. But the authority it has gathered is perhaps most damning: descriptive agreement between practitioners masquerading as medical science, its diagnoses putting critical educational and insurance benefits on the block, a realized potential for overmedicating what may well be normal behavioral responses. A practicing psychotherapist, Greenberg is not about to throw the baby out with the bath water, to deride the urge to recognize and classify our psychological travails, but he does take exception when those categories claim more than they can deliver and our prejudices lead to wild surmises mostly out of touch with the landscape of suffering’s natural boundaries. Greenberg is an entertaining guide through the treacheries and valuable instances of the DSM, interviewing members on both sides of the divide and keeping the proceedings conversational even when discussing the manual’s pretensions toward epistemic iteration. He also brings his own practice into the picture, with examples of the DSM falling woefully short in capturing the complexity of personality.
Bright, humorous and seriously thoroughgoing, Greenberg takes all the DSMs for a spin as revealing as the emperor’s new clothes.