Depression gets redefined

Posted: March 2, 2012

Proposed changes to the D.S.M. raise controversy

Dominique Hlavac, Talon staff writer 

“It was just so much sadness all the time, nothing was fun,” sophomore Alexander Lindberg said. Lindberg had been feeling this way for about a year and a half before realizing that he might be clinically depressed.

Many people feel sad or down in the dumps sometimes, it’s part of the human condition to experience feelings of pain and sadness at some point in life, but when they last longer and start to effect your daily life, it could be more than just a feeling, and can be classified as a medical condition.

Mental conditions are caused by chemical imbalances in the brain, however psychiatrists and psychologists do not ‘test’ these chemicals in any way.

They refer to a manual published by the American Psychological Association (APA) that lists all of the known mental disorders and conditions along with a list of symptoms and specifications for each and try to match the symptoms to a condition in order to make an accurate diagnosis. This manual is referred to as the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).

In the most current version of the manual, DSM-IV, being diagnosed with major depression requires expressing five of the nine symptoms for two weeks or more, as well as adhering to a list of specifications.

A new report released in Feb. 2012, proposes changing the definition of depression to include grieving in DSM-5. This report may widen the definition of clinical depression and enable more people to receive the diagnosis.

Within the definition of depression in DSM-IV, there is “bereavement” or grief exclusion. This exclusion allows a person who has lost a loved one, a two month period exhibiting symptoms of depression before they can be clinically diagnosed; this is essentially a period of grieving.

In the new version of the DSM, this exclusion will no longer be present, thus including grieving symptoms as eligible for depression treatment and therapy.

Some argue that this change will be beneficial to people who are diagnosed,

“I think grieving, it’s always been there,” said Jonathan Jensen M.D., director of the residency training and education program in child and adolescent psychiatry at the University of Minnesota.

“We should research it, we should pay attention to it,” said Jensen, “We shouldn’t just leave people alone in their grief.”

Despite the highlighted benefits for sufferers, some are still opposed to the inclusion of grieving. According to a study conducted by psychiatric researchers at Columbia and New York Universities, there is a higher potential for false positive diagnoses within the proposed definition.

These changes are by no means approved and finalized, there is still research and debate going on surrounding not just these, but many seemingly small revisions to the DSM. The final version is to be finalized and released in May 2013.

The changes may seem small and insignificant, but they shed light on serious issues that are often shrouded in controversy.

These conditions are serious. Don’t wait to get help; these feelings of sadness, hopelessness and even guilt can consume some one’s whole life, regardless of whether it’s depression or grief.

“If I had any advice [to someone who has feelings of depression], it would be to tell someone.” Lindberg said, “Tell a friend, get help. Just don’t keep it all inside.”

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