“Will Anyone Be Normal?”

I KNEW nobody was really normal and now this proves it!!!  sort of… 😛

A recent article in Yahoo News (via Reuters) talks about the current updating of the DMS (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) for doctors, and it’s now including things such as toddler tantrums and binge eating. 

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100727/ap_on_el_st_lo/us_daughter_attack_ad;_ylt=ArvNebM7csVKoppEGQI4xCGs0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTNwNzVkczMwBGFzc2V0A2FwLzIwMTAwNzI3L3VzX2RhdWdodGVyX2F0dGFja19hZARjY29kZQNtb3N0cG9wdWxhcgRjcG9zAzQEcG9zAzEEcHQDaG9tZV9jb2tlBHNlYwN5bl9oZWFkbGluZV9saXN0BHNsawNkYXVnaHRlcnRha2U

So the question is, if every human characteristic gets labeled as something or other, are any of us really normal, and what are the ramifications of telling people in the future that they are ill, even if they were previously thought of as perfectly healthy?  Could it lead to overdispensing of drugs? What effect will it have on how people view themselves?

I think there are categories that needed to be expanded and have wider labeling, particularly because a parent often times cannot have insurance cover illnesses that are not explicitly mentioned in the DSM, though acknowledged and accepted in the medical community.  Once such example would be Sensory Integration Dysfunction (also known as Sensory Processing Disorder).  It represents a wide gamut of issues but sensory processing is best defined as “the way the nervous system receives messages from the senses and turns them into appropriate and behavioral responses” (http://www.spdfoundation.net/about-sensory-processing-disorder.html).   With SPD “the sensory signals don’t get organized into the appropriate responses,” which translates into clumsiness with gross and fine motor skills, behavioral problems, etc.  This, in turn, can lead to issues such as problems in school, etc.  However, with the proper therapies (generally physical, speech or occupational, a child can get back on track.)  BUT because it’s not in the DSM, insurance companies will not touch the issue, leaving parents to foot the complete bill to some very expensive therapies.

On the other end of the spectrum, labeling toddler tantrums as “temper dysregulation disorder,” seems a bit extreme.  Yes it’s not IDEAL behavior, but it IS normal for most children.  Of course there are degrees of tantrums, and some indicate more serious, underlying issues, but at that point, it’s those issues that should be addressed.  The tantrums are merely a physical, outward manifestation of larger issues.

I guess what worries me is that children (and perhaps adults) will be pushed to take more and more medications they don’t need, to “fix” problems that are actually character quirks or personality traits.  I do believe medicine has its place and has been very helpful to many, but something like Ritalin, I think is overprescibed, and comes with its own set of long-term side effects.  Some children legitimately need it, and others are hyperactive, yes, but may just require more physical activity and adjustments to their diet to satisfy their need for physical movement and input.

Will shyness be a disorder? Or children who talk too much?  Perhaps extreme cases of either are, but on average, they are ordinarly, natural phases in the lives of many people.  Where do we draw the line between legitimate differences in human character, and something that is actually a real, substantial medical problem?

Anyway, I’m curious to see the effects of this 20 years down the line.

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