If you ever wondered who makes decisions about what constitutes a disorder or a disease, we have the answer.
It wasn’t until 1980 that post-traumatic stress disorder was officially added to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM-IV, the ultimate authority in the world of psychology. Anorexia, bulimia and sexual addiction were all added in recent decades as well. With a new version of the DSM in the works, a panel of experts is currently debating what should be added to the 2013 edition.
What makes a disorder worthy of inclusion? There are certain criteria that must be met. Primarily, the condition should have a unique set of symptoms and a verifiable medical cause. With that description in mind, here are several that are being considered for inclusion in the new edition:
Binge Eating Disorder – Anorexia and bulimia are well-established disorders with a growing public awareness, but the committee determining which revisions should be made to the DSM is looking at whether binge eating needs to be given its own separate entry. Binge eating is defined as eating any amount of food that is larger than what most people would eat in a given period of time under similar circumstances. Further, a person with the condition feels they have no control while eating. This isn’t the same as that casual over-indulging we all do occasionally. Instead, it’s a compulsion that leaves a person feeling out of control. To meet the criteria, binge eating occurs, on average, at least once a week for a period of at least three months. The condition is distinct from bulimia and anorexia because it is not associated with purging, but it may have links to obesity.
Cannabis Withdrawal – Usually when we talk about drug withdrawal, we think of substances like heroin or prescription painkillers, but marijuana abuse accounts for several disorders in the current DSM. The team is now determining whether or not cannabis withdrawal needs to be added to the section with other substances like alcohol and cocaine. The experts are currently reviewing the research to determine if withdrawal from prolonged, heavy use of marijuana is a "true" withdrawal syndrome.
Hoarding Disorder– If you’re a fan of reality TV, chances are you’re already aware of the phenomenon known as hoarding, which is currently listed under both obsessive–compulsive personality disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) in the DSM. But now the experts studying this condition suggest that compulsive hoarding seems to be independent from other disorders. People with the condition have persistent difficulty parting with possessions, regardless of their value. They accumulate a large number of possessions that fill up living areas of their home or workplace until these areas can't be used. There is still much to be learned about the science of this disorder, and earning its own entry in the DSM may be the first step toward greater understanding.
The researchers working on the upcoming DSM-V are reviewing the way all behavioral addictions and substance addictions are defined and grouped, but just what changes will make the cut won’t be known until the new version is released.
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