The DSM Inclusion Debate

The psychiatrists working on the upcoming 2013 update of the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders are currently debating whether to include parental alienation syndrome among its growing list of disorders.

According to an article in The Tennessean, Therapist’s split on ‘parental alienation’:

Parental alienation, as defined by [William] Bernet and more than 50 colleagues around the country and the world who are pushing for its inclusion in the reference tome, is a form of brainwashing that occurs only in a small number of highly contentious breakups.

A small number he says. I imagine it would occur in a growing number of households if the DSM made it a treatable disorder. Sure. Staying together for the sake of junior can be a good idea, or it can be a bad idea. If this sounds weird to you, not to worry, it sounds weird to me, too. Sometimes grownups have a hard time growing up. That’s life, that’s not medicine.

The concept has vocal critics who fear some decision-makers may not be able to distinguish parental alienation from genuine danger. But the scenario of one parent attempting to turn children against another is familiar to anyone who works in family law or counseling.

The fear is that mommy or daddy could really be a danger to the kids. This happens, and there is no need to dreg up the ghost of Robert Ripley to confirm. All you have to do is open up a newspaper.

You’ve got alienating parents, sure, but what about your alienating siblings? Shouldn’t we also have a sibling alienation designation? Can’t siblings also be a danger to other siblings? Sibling rivalries develop, and family scapegoats occur. I’m sure there must be some alienation involved in this matter, too.

Also, alienation is hardly restricted to the nuclear family. Why don’t we make social alienation an official disorder as well? Add social alienation syndrome as a DSM disorder, and the over all medicalization of modern society should be nearing completion. Of course, the question then becomes who is doing the brainwashing? Is it society at large, or is it the American Psychiatric Association membership behind each additional expansion of the DSM?

Cure alienation then, if it’s all a matter of brain washing. Uh huh, but is the brain washed brain the alienated brain, or is it the non-alienated (think smiley) brain? You will have to answer that one for yourself.

I haven’t gotten to psychiatric alienation yet, but just give me time.