Somatic Symptom Disorder’s Over-Expansion
The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM-5, is due out in May and as I’ve already written in this space several times, it has more than its share of critics voicing opposition to some of the proposed changes. Sharon Kirkey of Postmedia News points to one specific problem, the expanded definition of “somatic symptom disorder”, as particularly harmful.
SSD is meant as a diagnosis for those who worry excessively about an illness when there is no physical symptoms identifiable. However, in the newest edition of the DSM, there is no provision that requires a lack of identifiable symptoms for a diagnosis. This means that even individuals with an actual, treatable, physical malady can also be diagnosed with this psychiatric disorder.
This could lead to over-diagnosis and mistreatment. As many as 1 in 6 people with cancer of heart disease could be diagnosed with SSD, which translates to millions of people.
The expanded definition of the disorder comes from an attempt to catch people in need who were being missed by the more narrow definition. However, I think it’s clear that this expansion overshot its mark.