Ian Hacking in the London Review of Books:
The new edition of the DSM replaces DSM-IV, which appeared in 1994. The DSM is the standard – and standardising – work of reference issued by the American Psychiatric Association, but its influence reaches into every nook and cranny of psychiatry, everywhere. Hence its publication has been greeted by a flurry of discussion, hype and hostility across all media, both traditional and social. Most of it has concerned individual diagnoses and the ways they have changed, or haven’t. To invoke the cliché for the first time in my life, most critics attended to the trees (the kinds of disorder recognised in the manual), but few thought about the wood. I want to talk about the object as a whole – about the wood – and will seldom mention particular diagnoses, except when I need an example.
Many worries have already been aired. In mid-May an onslaught was delivered by the Division of Clinical Psychology of the British Psychology Society, which is sceptical about the very project of standardised diagnosis, especially of schizophrenia and bipolar disorders. More generally, it opposes the biomedical model of mental illness, to the exclusion of social conditions and life-course events. On a quite different score, Allen Frances, the chief editor of DSM-IV, has for years been blogging his criticisms of the modifications leading to DSM-5. More and more kinds of behaviour are now being filed as disorders, opening up vast fields of profit for drug companies. I shall discuss none of these important issues, and will try to be informative and even supportive until the very end of this piece, where I address a fundamental flaw in the enterprise.