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Revised psychiatry bible draws many critics

CHICAGO -- In the new psychiatric manual of mental disorders, grief soon after a loved one's death can be considered major depression. Extreme childhood temper tantrums get a fancy name. And certain "senior moments" are called "mild neurocognitive disorder."

Those changes are just some of the reasons prominent critics say the American Psychiatric Association is out of control, turning common human problems into mental illnesses in a trend they say will just make the "pop-a-pill" culture worse.

Says a former leader of the group: "Normal needs to be saved from powerful forces trying to convince us that we are all sick."

At issue is the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, widely known as the DSM-5. The DSM has long been considered the authoritative source for diagnosing mental problems.

The psychiatric association formally introduces the nearly 1,000-page revision this weekend in San Francisco. It's the manual's first major update in nearly 20 years, and a backlash has taken shape:

Two new books by mental health experts, "Saving Normal" and "The Book of Woe," say the world's most widely used psychiatric guide has lost credibility.

A British psychologists' group is criticizing the DSM-5, calling for a "paradigm shift" away from viewing mental problems as a disease.

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Even the head of the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health complained that the book lacks scientific validity.

This week, the NIMH director, Dr. Thomas Insel, tried to patch things up as he and the 34,000-member psychiatrists group issued a joint statement saying they have similar goals for improving the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness.

Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman, the psychiatry association's incoming president, said challenging the handbook's credibility "is completely unwarranted." The book establishes diagnoses "so patients can receive the best care," he said, asserting that it takes into account the most up-to-date scientific knowledge.

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