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Sign the online petition to Boycott the DSM5 at http://dsm5response.com/

By Martin Whitely

DSM-5, the newest edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s ‘Bible of Psychiatry’ will be officially released in May 2013 and is already available for presale.  However, this edition of the DSM may not prove as profitable for the American Psychiatric Association (APA) as there is a growing international chorus of voices, many from within mainstream psychiatry, calling for a boycott of the DSM5.

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by Professor Allen J. Frances, M.D. Chairperson of the American Psychiatric Association DSM-4 Task Force

This blog was originally Published on December 2, 2012 in DSM5 in Distress at http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/dsm5-in-distress/201212/dsm-5-is-guide-not-bible-ignore-its-ten-worst-changes

This is the saddest moment in my 45 year career of studying, practicing, and teaching psychiatry. The Board of Trustees of the American Psychiatric Association (APA) has given its final approval to a deeply flawed DSM 5 containing many changes that seem clearly unsafe and scientifically unsound.  My best advice to clinicians, to the press, and to the general public – be skeptical and don’t follow DSM 5 blindly down a road likely to lead to massive over-diagnosis and harmful over-medication.  Just ignore the ten changes that make no sense.

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“Personalities, rhetoric and charisma are driving the direction of mental health rather than science and evidence.” (Martin Whitely MLA, Parliament of Western Australia, 25 September 2012)

Related Media

Sue Dunlevy, News Limited Sunday papers, 7 October 2012, Doubts cast on youth mental health program. Available at  http://www.news.com.au/national/doubts-cast-on-youth-mental-health-program/story-fndo4eg9-1226489760605

Also see Patrick McGorry’s ‘Ultra High Risk of Psychosis’ training DVD fails the common sense test http://speedupsitstill.com/patrick-mcgorrys-ultra-high-risk-psychosis-theory-fails-common-sense-test

MARTIN WHITELY (Trancript of speech in the Legislative Assembly, Parliament of Western Australia, 25 September 2012): I want to use this opportunity to talk about some very serious concerns I have about the direction of the mental health policy in Australia. My basic contention is that personalities, rhetoric and charisma are driving the direction of mental health rather than science and evidence.

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By Dr Martin Whitely

The central characteristics of ‘Disruptive Mood Disregulation Disorder’ proposed for inclusion in DSM5 are childhood “irritability” and “temper outbursts” occurring, ”on average, three or more times per week”.[1] Disruptive Mood Disregulation Disorder represents a disturbing evolution of the absurd and dangerous practice of diagnosing children, even very young children, with ‘Juvenile Bipolar Disorder’.  Although not an official psychiatric disorder Juvenile Bipolar Disorder was enthusiastically and successfully promoted by disgraced Harvard University Professor of Psychiatry, Joseph Biederman.

Biederman, who was also Director of the Johnson & Johnson Centre for Paediatric Psych-Pathology research at Massachusetts Hospital and according to the New York Times is the “the world’s most prominent advocate of diagnosing bipolar disorder in even the youngest children and of using antipsychotic medicines to treat the disease”.[2] He is largely responsible for the enormous growth in US antipsychotic prescribing rates to children including Johnson & Johnson’s very profitable antipsychotic Risperidone (brand name Risperidal).  In April Johnson & Johnson were fined US$1.2Billion by an Arkansas court for making misleading claims about the safety of Risperidal. This followed similar outcomes in other US states.[3]

In 2011, US congressional investigations led by Iowan Senator Charles E. Grassley exposed that Biederman received at least US$1.6m in undisclosed fees from drug-makers from 2000 to 2007 and only revealed a tiny fraction of this income to Harvard University.[4] The New York Times reports “court documents dating over several years that Dr. Biederman wants sealed showed that he told the drug-giant Johnson & Johnson that planned studies of its medicines in children would yield results benefiting the company”.[5]

Taking and not disclosing drug company money and planning beneficial research results is reprehensible behaviour. Harvard University’s decision to effectively give Biederman little more than a rap on the knuckles brings discredit to one of the world’s most prestigious universities.[6] Perhaps Harvard was motivated more by the funding that Biederman and his cronies attract to the university than by the damage they bring to the university’s reputation. Harvard’s failure to take strong ethical action against Biederman has meant that his influence, although waning, is still considerable.

Thankfully Juvenile Bipolar Disorder is not officially recognised as a diagnosable condition in the current DSM (DSMIV). Supporters lobbied to have it included in the DSMIV, however the DSMIV development committee “found scientific support unconvincing and refused to do so”.[7] Regardless, hundreds of thousands, possibly millions, of children have been diagnosed with the unofficial disorder and treated with anti-psychotics like Johnson & Johnson’s Risperidal.[8] These medications “can cause serious complications – major weight gain, obesity, diabetes, cardio vascular disease and possibly shortened life expectancy.  Sudden death has occurred in a few cases where excessive doses and/or multiple drugs were given to very young children.”[9]

The proposal to include Disruptive Mood Disregulation Disorder is in part a reaction to criticisms of the use of anti-psychotics for Juvenile Bipolar Disorder.  The authors of DSM5 are proposing Disruptive Mood Disregulation Disorder as an alternative to the diagnosis of Juvenile Bipolar Disorder, using the rationale that this will help curb anti-psychotic prescribing rates to children.  In effect, they are proposing a “juvenile bipolar light” disorder.

Given the unrestrained enthusiasm for prescribing psychotropics ‘off label’ to children exhibited by many clinicians, particularly paediatricians, the opposite is likely to occur.[10] The inevitable outcome is that more children will be diagnosed and experience tells us the more children diagnosed with a ‘psychiatric disorder’, the more children are subjected to the cheap and convenient practice of speculative ‘off label’ prescribing.

The only sensible course of action for the American Psychiatric Association is to reject out-of-hand the notion of Juvenile Bipolar Disorder or any lighter version thereof including Disruptive Mood Disregulation Disorder.  Failure to do so will drag the American Psychiatric Association into another epidemic of childhood drugging for which, unlike ADHD, they currently bear no responsibility.


[1] For a full description of the proposed diagnostic criteria see http://www.dsm5.org/proposedrevision/pages/proposedrevision.aspx?rid=397

[2] New York Times Topic Page for Professor Joseph Biederman available at http://topics.nytimes.com/topics/reference/timestopics/people/b/joseph_biederman/index.html]

[3] Companies belittled risks of Risperdal, slapped with huge fine, Los Angeles Times 11 April 2012. Michael Muskal available at http://articles.latimes.com/2012/apr/11/nation/la-na-nn-risperdal-arkansas-20120411

[4] New York Times Topic Page for Professor Joseph Biederman available at http://topics.nytimes.com/topics/reference/timestopics/people/b/joseph_biederman/index.html

[5] New York Times Topic Page for Professor Joseph Biederman available at http://topics.nytimes.com/topics/reference/timestopics/people/b/joseph_biederman/index.html

[6] For more detail see http://speedupsitstill.com/world-leading-adhd-%e2%80%98expert%e2%80%99-harvard-professor-joseph-biederman-sanctioned-hidden-drug-company-money-allegations

[7] Dr Allen Frances, Huffington Post, The false epidemic of Childhood Bipolar Disorder available at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/allen-frances/children-bipolar-disorder_b_1213028.html

[8] There are no reliable estimates of child prescribing patient numbers. In the U.S. outpatient office visits for children and adolescents with bipolar disorder increased 40-fold from 20,000 in 1994–95 to 800,000 in 2002–03. http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2011/06/19/mommy-am-i-really-bipolar.html

[9] Dr Allen Frances, Huffington Post, The false epidemic of Childhood Bipolar Disorder available at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/allen-frances/children-bipolar-disorder_b_1213028.html

[10] A recent study of psychiatrists in Christchurch New Zealand revealed that 96% of them prescribed antipsychotics off label. While it is unlikely that rate is replicated across the globe it is nonetheless an alarming statistic and indicates the practice is very common. M. Slezack, Psychiatry Update, 26 April 2012, 96% of psychiatrists prescribe off-label anti-psychotics  http://www.psychiatryupdate.com.au/latest-news/off-label-anti-psychotics-almost-universally-presc

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On May 2, 2012, the American Psychiatric Association announced changes to its proposed DSM5.[1. see http://www.dsm5.org/Pages/Default.aspx ]  Psychosis Risk Syndrome, or as it was officially proposed to be called, Attenuated Psychosis Syndrome, has been dropped. This is great news because as has been highlighted on this website numerous times, Psychosis Risk Disorder was a flawed concept with the potential to be an iatrogenic health disaster. In addition most of the dangerous changes proposed for the already absurdly broad ADHD diagnostic criteria have been abandoned.  Four extra ADHD criteria had been identified for inclusion in the DSM5. They were:

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A decade in politics has taught me it is rare for prominent people to acknowledge mistakes and even rarer for them to do everything in their power to correct them. And taking responsibility for past errors is especially problematic for members of the American medical profession who work within a blame avoidance culture created by the ever-present threat of malpractice suits. Special praise is therefore due to Dr Allen Frances the psychiatrist who led the development of DSMIV for his efforts to ensure that the mistakes of DSMIV are not repeated in the development of DSM5.

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In the Australian on 16 June 2011http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/features/schism-opens-over-ills-of-the-mind/story-e6frg6z6-1226075910650 ) Professor Patrick McGorry responded to his critics by withdrawing his support for the inclusion of Psychosis Risk Syndrome in the ‘Bible of Psychiatry’ DSM5. In addition he has stated that he now opposes the use of antipsychotics to prevent first break psychosis stating  it ‘needs to be studied before it’s ever advocated’.

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The following is an edited excerpt from a speech Martin Whitely MLA made in the Western Australian Legislative Assembly on Wednesday 25 May 2011

Mental Health was a centrepiece of the federal budget, with an additional $2.2 billion being identified over five years for mental health initiatives, of which $419.7 million was split between the Early Psychosis Prevention and Intervention Centre (EPPIC), and Headspace.[1] An additional $2.2 billion for mental health is a good thing and to the extent that people such as Professor Patrick McGorry, Professor Ian Hickie and Professor John Mendoza, have contributed to putting mental health on the agenda, they deserve praise. However, I am concerned that the devil is in the detail. My criticism is not about extra funding but about the lack of an evidence base for the decisions that have been made.

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