DSM5 Rollback Begins – Psychosis Risk Disorder gone and the revised proposal for DSM5 ADHD criteria not quite as horrific

On May 2, 2012, the American Psychiatric Association announced changes to its proposed DSM5.[1. see http://www.dsm5.org/Pages/Default.aspx ]  Psychosis Risk Syndrome, or as it was officially proposed to be called, Attenuated Psychosis Syndrome, has been dropped. This is great news because as has been highlighted on this website numerous times, Psychosis Risk Disorder was a flawed concept with the potential to be an iatrogenic health disaster. In addition most of the dangerous changes proposed for the already absurdly broad ADHD diagnostic criteria have been abandoned.  Four extra ADHD criteria had been identified for inclusion in the DSM5. They were:

1- Tends to act without thinking, such as starting tasks without adequate preparation or avoiding reading or listening to instructions. May speak out without considering consequences or make important decisions on the spur of the moment, such as impulsively buying items, suddenly quitting a job, or breaking up with a friend.

2- Is often impatient, as shown by feeling restless when waiting for others and wanting to move faster than others, wanting people to get to the point, speeding while driving, and cutting into traffic to go faster than others.

3- Is uncomfortable doing things slowly and systematically and often rushes through activities or tasks.

4- Finds it difficult to resist temptations or opportunities, even if it means taking risks (A child may grab toys off a store shelf or play with dangerous objects; adults may commit to a relationship after only a brief acquaintance or take a job or enter into a business arrangement without doing due diligence).[2. for full details of the now abandoned DSM5 ADHD proposal refer to http://speedupsitstill.com/dsm-5-proposal-adhd-%e2%80%93-making-lifelong-patients-healthy-people ]

It is good news that these ridiculous additions have been removed along with the extremely worrying proposal to lower the bar for anyone over 16 years so that exhibiting 4 criteria of a subtype instead of 6 could be enough to get a diagnosis of ADHD.  However, the existing 18 diagnostic criteria have been reworded to be equally applicable to adults as well as children, reflecting the ADHD industries persistent and successful efforts to expand the adult market. (The revised proposed criteria are listed at the end of this blog)[3. see http://www.dsm5.org/ProposedRevision/Pages/proposedrevision.aspx?rid=383 ]

Another remaining concern is the proposal for an ADHD category titled Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Not Elsewhere Classified must be removed.  This additional category reads: Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) Not Elsewhere Classified may be coded in cases in which the individuals are below threshold for ADHD or for whom there is insufficient opportunity to verify all criteria. However, ADHD-related symptoms should be associated with impairment, and they are not better explained by any other mental disorder.[4. see http://www.dsm5.org/ProposedRevision/Pages/proposedrevision.aspx?rid=102] The inclusion of this additional category effectively enables clinicians to diagnose and prescribe without even the flimsy protection offered by the already extremely broad DSM4 diagnostic criteria. It cannot be allowed to stand unchallenged.

While the back-downs from the original DSM5 proposals for Psychosis Risk, ADHD and a number of other dubious disorders are welcome they do not begin to go far enough.  Continued pressure through protest and common-sense advocacy must be brought to bear on the American Psychiatric Association (APA).

The APA only responded after significant past users of the DSM, including the British Psychological Association and chapters of the American Psychological Association threatened a boycott of DSM5.[5. refer to http://speedupsitstill.com/sign-on-line-petition-proposed-dsm5 and http://speedupsitstill.com/dr-allen-frances-lead-author-dsmiv-british-psychological-association-lead-chorus-opposition-disease-mongering-proposals-dsm5] This demonstrates that the APA’s DSM development process is driven by politics and money, rather than science and patient welfare. If their proposals were scientifically robust they would have defended them rather than compromising when the going got tough.

The resistance of DSM5 must continue.  Ideally Australia should reject the permanent disability model of mental health embedded in the DSM and develop a model of treating mental illness designed to enhance individual resilience and assist the natural capacity of most mentally ill people to make a full recovery.

Continuing to follow the APA’s lead, will unnecessarily doom many more Australians to a vicious cycle of difficult personal circumstances, behavioural difficulties, dumbed down labelling, inappropriate prescribing and further prescribing to manage adverse side effects.

Nonetheless yesterday’s back-downs are a welcome first step in the right direction.  More than any other individual former DSMIV chairperson, Doctor Allen Frances, deserves credit for leading the ongoing fight against the excesses of DSM5. Doctor Frances’ blog which deals with progress made and the need for continued advocacy is copied below.[6. The original is available at http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/dsm5-in-distress/201205/wonderful-news-dsm-5-finally-begins-its-belated-and-necessary-retreat ]

Hear Martin Whitely interviewed on Brisbane Radio 4BC about the backdown on ADHD for the proposed DSM5 at http://www.4bc.com.au/blogs/4bc-blog/adhd-and-its-psychosis-listing/20120524-1z6rg.html

Hear the ABC World Today Program interview Patrick McGorry and Martin Whitely regarding the DSM5 Psychosis Risk Disorder backdown at http://www.abc.net.au/worldtoday/content/2012/s3511017.htm

Wonderful News: DSM 5 Finally Begins Its Belated and Necessary Retreat

Perhaps this will be the beginning of real reform.

Published on May 2, 2012 by Allen J. Frances, M.D. in DSM5 in Distress

Sigh of relief. The DSM 5 website announced this morning that two of its most controversial proposals have finally been dropped. We have dodged bullets on Psychosis Risk and Mixed Anxiety Depression. Both are now definitively rejected as official DSM 5 diagnoses and instead are being exiled to the appendix. And one other piece of good news; the criteria set for Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder has been tightened (not enough, but every little bit helps).

The world is a safer place now that ‘Psychosis Risk’ will not be in DSM 5. Its rejection saves our kids from the risk of unnecessary exposure to antipsychotic drugs (with their side effects of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular problems, and shortened life expectancy). ‘Psychosis Risk’ was the single worst DSM 5 proposal—we should all be grateful that DSM 5 has finally come to its senses in dropping it.

For the first time in its history, DSM 5 has shown some flexibility and capacity to correct itself. Hopefully, this is just the beginning of what will turn out to be a number of other necessary DSM 5 retreats. Today’s revisions should be just the first step in a systematic program of reform—a prelude to all the other changes needed before DSM 5 can become a safe and scientifically sound document.

The turnabout here can be attributed to the combination of: 1) extensive criticism from experts in the field; 2) public outrage; 3) uniformly negative press coverage and; 4) the abysmal results in DSM 5 field testing. The same factors working together should deep six many of the other risky DSM 5 proposals. This is certainly no time for complacency. Much of the rest of DSM 5 is still a mess. The reliabilities achieved for many of the other disorders are apparently unbelievably low and the writing of the criteria sets is still unacceptably imprecise. The following specific questions need to be answered.

1) Why introduce Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder when it has been studied by only one research team for only six years and risks further encouraging the inappropriate use of antipsychotic drugs for kids with temper tantrums?

2) Why have a diagnosis for Minor Neurocognitive Disorder that will unnecessarily frighten many people who have no more than the memory problems of old age?

3) Why insist on removing the Bereavement exclusion—thus allowing the inappropriate diagnosis of Major Depressive Disorder in people who are experiencing normal grief?

4) Why open the floodgates to even more over-diagnosis and over-medication of Attention Deficit Disorder (by raising the allowed age of onset to 12)?

5) Why dramatically lower the threshold for Generalized Anxiety Disorder when this will confound mental disorder with the anxiety and sadness of everyday life?

6) Why combine substance abuse with substance dependence under the rubric of Addictive Disorders—when this confuses their different treatment needs and creates unnecessary stigma for many young people who will never go on to ‘addiction’?

7) Why include a category for Behavioral Addictions that will open the door to the mislabelling as mental disorder all sorts of normal interests and passions? The DSM 5 suggestion to include ‘internet addiction’ in the Appendix is an ominous first step.

8) Why include wording in the Pedophilia criteria set that will invite further forensic abuse of the already much misused Paraphilia section?

9) Why label as mental disorder the experience of indulging in one binge eating episode a week for three months?

10) Why introduce a system of personality diagnosis so complicated it will never be used and will give dimensional diagnosis an undeserved bad name?

11) Why not delay publication of DSM 5 to allow enough time to complete the previously planned and crucial second stage of field testing that was abruptly cancelled because of the constant administrative delays in completing the first stage? This is the only way to guarantee acceptable reliability. We should not accept ambiguously worded DSM 5 diagnoses whose reliability barely exceeds chance?

12) And most fundamental. Why not allow for an independent scientific review of all the remaining controversial DSM 5 changes. This has been proposed by fifty-one mental health organizations as the only way to guarantee a credible DSM 5?

The public has 6 weeks to comment on the current DSM 5 suggestions. Then there will be a round of final decisions- with everything probably sewn up by mid-fall. This opening chink in the previously impervious DSM 5 armour should spur renewed efforts to get the rest of DSM 5 right.

For more on the latest revisions of the DSM 5 criteria sets, see here.

Take this last opportunity to be heard.

To comment directly to the American Psychiatric Association on their proposals click on http://www.dsm5.org/Pages/Registration.aspx


Related Media

Psychiatry Manual Drafters Back Down on Diagnoses by  in New York Times 8 May 2012

Sue Dunlevy, Medical ‘Bible’ Squabble, The Weekend Australian, 19 May 2012 available at http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/health-science/medical-bible-squabble/story-e6frg8y6-1226359242372

Below are the (revised) proposed DSM5 diagnostic criteria for ADHD

(see http://www.dsm5.org/ProposedRevision/Pages/proposedrevision.aspx?rid=383 )

AD/HD consists of a pattern of behavior that is present in multiple settings where it gives rise to social, educational or work performance difficulties.

A. Either (A1) and/or (A2).

A1. Inattention: Six (or more) of the following symptoms have persisted for at least 6 months to a degree that is inconsistent with developmental level and that impact directly on social and academic/occupational activities.

a.   Often fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, at work, or during other activities (e.g., overlooks or misses details, work is inaccurate).

b.   Often has difficulty sustaining attention in tasks or play activities (e.g., has difficulty remaining focused during lectures, conversations, or reading lengthy writings).

c.   Often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly (e.g., mind seems elsewhere, even in the absence of any obvious distraction).

d.   Often does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish schoolwork, chores, or duties in the workplace (e.g., starts tasks but quickly loses focus and is easily sidetracked;  fails to finish schoolwork, household chores, or tasks in the workplace).

e.   Often has difficulty organizing tasks and activities (e.g., difficulty managing sequential tasks; difficulty keeping materials and belongings in order; messy, disorganized, work; poor time management; tends to fail to meet deadlines).

f.    Often avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to engage in tasks that require sustained mental effort (e.g., schoolwork or homework; for older adolescents and adults, preparing reports, completing forms, or reviewing lengthy papers).

g.   Often loses things necessary for tasks or activities (e.g., school materials, pencils, books, tools, wallets, keys, paperwork, eyeglasses, or mobile telephones).

h.   Is often easily distracted by extraneous stimuli (for older adolescents and adults, may include unrelated thoughts).

i.    Is often forgetful in daily activities (e.g., chores, running errands; for older adolescents and adults, returning calls, paying bills, keeping appointments).

A2. Hyperactivity and Impulsivity: Six (or more) of the following symptoms have persisted for at least 6 months to a degree that is inconsistent with developmental level and that impact directly on social and academic/occupational activities.

a.   Often fidgets with or taps hands or feet or squirms in seat.

b.   Often leaves seat in situations when remaining seated is expected (e.g., leaves his or her place in the classroom, office or other workplace, or in other situations that require remaining seated).

c.   Often runs about or climbs in situations where it is inappropriate. (In adolescents or adults, may be limited to feeling restless).

d.   Often unable to play or engage in leisure activities quietly. 

e.   Is often “on the go,” acting as if “driven by a motor” (e.g., is unable or uncomfortable being still for an extended time, as in restaurants, meetings, etc; may be experienced by others as being restless and difficult to keep up with).

f.    Often talks excessively.

g.   Often blurts out an answer before a question has been completed (e.g., completes people’s sentences and “jumps the gun” in conversations, cannot wait for next turn in conversation).

h.   Often has difficulty waiting his or her turn (e.g., while waiting in line).

i.    Often interrupts or intrudes on others (e.g., butts into conversations, games, or activities; may start using other people’s things without asking or receiving permission, adolescents or adults may intrude into or take over what others are doing).

B.   Several inattentive or hyperactive-impulsive symptoms were present prior to age 12.

C.   Criteria for the disorder are met in two or more settings (e.g., at home, school or work, with friends or relatives, or in other activities).

D.   There must be clear evidence that the symptoms interfere with or reduce the quality of social, academic, or occupational functioning.

E.   The symptoms do not occur exclusively during the course of schizophrenia or another psychotic disorder and are not better accounted for by another mental disorder (e.g., mood disorder, anxiety disorder, dissociative disorder, or a personality disorder).

 Specify Based on Current Presentation

Combined Presentation: If both Criterion A1 (Inattention) and Criterion A2 (Hyperactivity-Impulsivity) are met for the past 6 months.

Predominantly Inattentive Presentation: If Criterion A1 (Inattention) is met but Criterion A2 (Hyperactivity-Impulsivity) is not met and 3 or more symptoms from Criterion A2 have been present for the past 6 months.

Inattentive Presentation (Restrictive): If Criterion A1 (Inattention) is met but no more than 2 symptoms from Criterion A2 (Hyperactivity-Impulsivity) have been present for the past 6 months.

Predominantly Hyperactive/Impulsive Presentation: If Criterion A2 (Hyperactivity-Impulsivity) is met and Criterion A1 (Inattention) is not met for the past 6 months. 

Coding note: For individuals (especially adolescents and adults) who currently have symptoms with impairment that no longer meet full criteria, “In Partial Remission” should be specified.

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  1. Schalk’s avatar

    Is there a touch of the so-called Stockholm Syndrome in there somewhere?
    First they come with a ridiculous and preposterous concoction of an important sounding affliction which they assign a bogus disease label to. ADHD is born.
    Next they expand and proliferate this new cash cow “disease” and in doing so they keep on “reinventing” the diagnostic criteria to ensnare more victims in their casting net. (Just speaking of “expanding diagnostic criteria” in science is already absurd! Why should there be a need to expand on proof? Unless it does not exist, of course!)
    Now they relent on some of the contrived “diagnostic criteria” and we hail it as a sensible step.
    To even have a debate about this contrived disease is absurd. The “disease” of ADHD as promulgated in the DSM is a fraud, a contrivance and nothing more than pseudo science. The fact that there are folks with serious emotional issues and problems is undeniable, but it certainly does not warrant calling them diseased, nor is it ethical to convince them that they are. To force and coerce children (who has no legal voice) into “treatment” is nothing less than one of the most hideous crimes in the history of mankind.


    1. Martin Whitely’s avatar

      I agree Shalk that ADHD is a totally absurd, uscientific, diagnosis with or without the DSM5 additions The world will be a better place when it is consigned to the dustbin of history and I am doing all I can to achieve that. However, any move that sees fewer children ‘medicated’ (read drugged) is a good move and victories for common sense have been so rare it is worth highlighting them when they occur.


    2. Dr Joe’s avatar

      This is a welcome step in the right direction. However the war is far from won against those who seek to medicalize and medicate life.


    3. bjcirceleb’s avatar

      This is a step in the right direction, but like others have stated it has not gone far enough. What also concerns me is that no group in Australia has spoken out about it. While US and UK psychologists have stated there concerns, psychologists in Australia are only thinking of more people they can offer thinking classes to in there grab to push CBT onto even more people, by telling them all they don’t know how to think. Not to say that there is no role for this stuff, but this constant push within Australia of labelling the slightest hint of sadness as a brain disease is causing more problems than it is helping.

      Reading the proposed criteria for ADHD about not reading things properly, well is there anyone who has not done that at some time. I remember very well in Grade 6 being given a sheet of paper with instructions on it by the teacher. We were told to follow through with the sheet and the first few to complete it all would be rewarded. The first question was to read all the following questions first. NO ONE in the class did that. Instead we proceded to go through each and every one of them, which required some wonderful and wacky things, jumping up and down, singing, cutting out things and sticking them on the blackboard, etc. The LAST statement said to ignore all the previous things, to write your name on the top and hand it into the teacher. It said that if yo have done anything else on the sheet you are not to hand it in!! We all sat there dumbfounded at the end. I guess that meant that a class of students who did everything that was written on the piece of paper had ADHD as we did not follow the first instruction. Mind you we all completed the whole of the rest of it as requested!!

      And of course while I have a problem with many of these disorders the simple fact is that those with complex histories of trauma including 99% of children in child protection care do not and never will fit the criteria for ANY trauma disorder. The criteria for PTSD are written in such a way as to only relate to adult once of related trauma. They can apply to veterns, they can and do apply to car accidents. But be abused by your own parents, have massive problems and ongoing symptoms related to that and we have no criteria to even acknowledge the trauma that you have gone through. And this is not through a lack of trying for those that work in this field. There was long ago proposed a Developmental Trauma Disorder, Disorder of Extreme Stress, etc. In fact they were proposed for DSM IV and were not included, despite the evidence ALL supporting there inclusion. What happens for these children and adults is that they are labelled with any number of other conditions and NEVER given the support they need, as they don’t fit the criteria for the trauma disorders, that could possibly allow for that to happen. Any number of things happen to them and of course we fail to acknowledge that the trauma had any affect in it as they don’t have a diagnosis of that. The simple reality is that those in most need are denied any help at all as they have the wrong diagnosis. The most common diagnosis for these people is ADHD and results in them being ritalin, as though that is somehow going to help them to overcome the trauma they have gone through and fix the extreme hypervigilance they are going through. They can’t be diagnosed with PTSD, there symptom profiles are such that they simply cannot fit the criteria of it. A response to a trauma that includes in many cases the whole world is very different to one in which people help you at some stage. A child who is abused has usually told any number of people including teachers, including doctors, and in many cases they have run away from home only to be returned by the police. Eventually they are usually made safe, but then we do the final injustice and do not acknowledge that the problems are caused by this abuse, but instead label with them ADHD and a million and one other brain diseases that supposedly require nothing more than medication to fix.


    4. bjcirceleb’s avatar

      I don’t believe that the rejection of psychosis risk will do much to stop children being prescribed antipsychotics. The Theraputic Goods Administration currently approves Resperidone, one of the most common antipsychotics for the treatment of mental Retardation (Intellectual Disability) and Autism Spectrum Disorders, which includes Asperger’s which is currently being given to any child who is shy. In fact government website advocate the use of antipsychotics as a treatment of first choice for ASD!!! Since the average life span this drug is 25 years as they kill people, one wonders if this is the aim, a way of cutting back on disability pensions and supports, etc. Maybe I’m just to cynical. And of course when the government is still rolling out EPPIC centres around Australia who plan on treating those at risk then one can only guess what use it has. Will there be strict regulations in place that only those who are psychotic are prescribed antipsychotic. I certainly know of a 14 year old prescribed antispychotics by a headspace GP for supposedly being at risk of psychosis. She visted a clairvoient after the death of her mother, and believing that she could find someoen who could speak to her dead mother was a sign of psychosis!! Still trying to work out why they didn’t get the mental health service to forceibly treat the clairvoient!



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