Ex psychiatric bible chief slams new secret committee

Photo by Flickr user mrtwism. Click for sourceThe forthcoming revision of the psychiatrists’ diagnostic manual, the DSM-V, is controversially being written behind closed doors and has already sparked criticisms for its lack of openness to outside scrutiny. So far, critics have managed to raise little more than smoke signals but the tinderbox may well have just been ignited by an article of scorching criticism penned by the head of the last DSM committee.

The article, by psychiatrist Allen Frances, is apparently due to be published in Psychiatric Times but a pre-publication version seems to have found its way online as a pdf and is already being widely circulated.

Frances slams the new chairman, the process, and the ethos of secrecy behind the new manual saying that “The work on DSM-5 has, so far, displayed an unhappy combination of soaring ambition and remarkably weak methodology.”

He also cites the openness of previous revisions as key to their acceptance and validity, and criticises the supposedly impending diagnostic creep that would make mild disturbances diagnosable mental illnesses.

Such heavyweight criticism in one of American psychiatry’s main news publications signals that the shit has really hit the fan for what was already a controversial project.

The article was posted online by psychiatrist Doug Brenner who also described being kicked off the authors list for an academic paper and denounced to members of a DSM sub-committee for criticising conflicts of interest in the committee in an earlier blog post.

This spurred well-known psychiatrist and blogger Daniel Carlat to recount his own experience of being denounced to the DSM committee for nothing more than a critical comment on his site, left by a reader.

If these reports are to be believed, it seems the committee members are already becoming hot under the collar and the apparently forthcoming Psychiatric Times piece can only turn up the heat.

pdf of Allen Frances article for Psychiatric Times.

One Comment

  1. Dark Jay
    Posted June 29, 2009 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

    I am encouraged by Dr. Frances’ letter. There has been a great deal of intrigue-boosting silence amid a process that must be transparent. His elucidation of expected and unforeseen consequences is spot-on. Here in the US we have been drowning in Autism-Spectrum and Bipolar-Spectrum epidemics. And far too much of this has been driven by pharmaceutical influences. It is good to know that someone involved in the much-needed revision of the DSM is properly grounded in descriptive nosology.


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