The outrage at the DSM's medicalization of normal human experience - grief, shyness - is international. Like the US, many European countries have what can only be called insane rates of psychotropic drug use, complete with the soaring rates of drug abuse that always accompany this. At a news conference in Australia the other day, where doctors gathered to denounce the DSM, one medical school professor called the ever more massive book "psychiatric imperialism."
The political metaphor feels right: After decades of passively accepting the authority of the DSM, both experts and citizens have suddenly risen against it.
It's worth asking why this fury at the DSM is so intense and increasingly widespread. And it's worth wondering why, given the fact that the upcoming DSM is the fifth, people haven't rebelled before.
More deeply, people eventually begin to perceive the destruction of the proud American tradition of autonomy - all those passages from Thoreau that thrill us... Where did that go? Are our only choices toxically disaffected Tea Partiers for whom the idea of autonomy has twisted into paranoia, or pseudo-depressives who've handed control of their very life narrative over to pharmaceutical companies? Decades ago, in books like The Culture of Narcissism, Christopher Lasch anticipated the grotesque outcome that finally has large numbers of us sitting up and paying attention - we are a country rapidly moving toward a situation in which half the population will be considered - will be persuaded to consider itself - mentally disordered.