Away With the Asperger's Diagnosis: What's It All About?
Submitted by Kerry on Wed, 2009-11-04 19:00.
The new DSM will require an evidence basis for diagnoses.
By Jean Mercer, Ph.D.
November 4, 2009 / psychologytoday.com
There are going to be some changes made, according to news stories on the reports of the groups working on the next edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association. One change that's been attracting a lot of attention is the move toward eliminating Asperger's syndrome as a diagnosis and combining Asperger's symptoms with those of another mild form of autism to create a new category. The new edition, DSM-V, will probably do this.
Asperger's syndrome was first listed in DSM in the 1994 edition. It was described as a mild form of autism involving social and physical awkwardness, sometimes but not always combined with verbal precocity and intense but limited learning interests. (This description reminds me of one of my office-mates in graduate school, who could and would recite or write out lists of the names of organ stops like "vox humana"-- which did not make him the life of any party.) But now it seems that Asperger's syndrome is going away.
What does this change mean? Don't people have the symptoms of Asperger's syndrome any more? Of course that's not the case. But let's look at mental health problems as they are reflected in years of DSM editions. Most of the problems whose symptoms are listed have no well-understood physical or genetic causes that would help to define and diagnose them. Few of them have well-understood causes in childhood or adult experiences. And in a lot of cases there is considerable overlap between the symptoms of one diagnostic category and those of others. In addition, both the names and the symptoms of some diagnoses have changed over the years. For instance, Reactive Attachment Disorder, a category now considered to involve disturbed behavior of children toward adults (both unusual willingness to approach strangers and unusual aloofness toward familiar people), was initially defined as part of an eating disorder of infants and young children.