The DSM Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even

As part of a discourse analysis of the DSM, I cut and pasted all references to the actual  behaviours, symptoms or ‘complaints’ (Bentall) occurring in the main DSM descriptors.  These cut across all labelled ‘disorders’ and there is huge overlap between disorders that is played down in the DSM text.

I have given the list below in alphabetical order to help get away from seeing them as grouped into metaphorical clusters based on some supposed disease, chemical imbalance or brain substrate thingoe.

A useful activity is to look through these repeatedly and imagine the myriad of life contexts within which each of these arises as a strategy to cope with stress, conflicts or extreme events.  Stare at them, and begin to stop your thinking from automatically assuming metaphors of disease clusters and labels, and put them into groupings based on coping behaviours within bad everyday contexts.

Start to deconstruct how you label, observe and think about all the behaviours on this list.   Remember my earlier blog–if you name or label you stop observing what is going on in the further details of the context and real life.  And then your label looks more and more certain, but only because you have stopped observing and do not see the contradictions and diverse details anymore.

Then try to observe these behaviours with ecological thinking instead, in the here and now, as behaviours-in-bad environments which are trying to deal with things, which might have worked once but not necessarily anymore.

Then try to imagine these arising as your own behaviours, first as innocuous or everyday and then as more severe.  What contexts in your life might give rise to them:  social, economic, cultural, lack of opportunities, lack of resources?  What are they strategies for?  What do they do?  How do they get locked in then?

Remember also that these words come from the DSM itself…


acute discomfort in close relationships
affective instability
agoraphobia, not wanting to go out of house, stay inside
anxiety, appear anxious or fearful
appear dramatic, emotional, or erratic
appear odd or eccentric
attention seeking
being awake throughout the night, decreased sleep
being reckless
body representation disrupted from normal
cognitive or perceptual distortions
concentration difficulties
consciousness disrupted from normal
crying spells
detachment from social relationships
disorganized thinking
disregard for the rights of others
distrust and suspiciousness of others’ motives
disturbance of eating, or eating-related behaviour
dysfunctional beliefs
eccentricities of behaviour
emotion disrupted from normal
empty mood
excessive emotionality
excessive fear and anxiety
feeling overwhelmed
feelings of inadequacy
finding it hard to take minor personal criticisms
generalized anxiety
grandiose ideas
grossly disorganized or abnormal motor behaviour
hallucinations or delusions
hypersensitivity to negative evaluation.
identity disrupted from normal
increased alcohol and drug use
increased energy
increased physical health complaints
increased sex drive
increased spending
inflated sense of responsibility
intermittent explosive anger
intermittent explosive behaviours
intermittent explosive irritation
interpersonal relationships instability
intolerance of uncertainty
intrusive and unwanted thoughts
lack of empathy
lack of enjoyment, loss of interest in pleasurable activities
memory disrupted from normal
moodiness that is out of character
motor control disrupted from normal
need for admiration
need to control thoughts
negative symptoms
opposition behaviour
orderliness preoccupation
overestimating threat
over-importance of thoughts
panic attacks
perception disrupted from normal
perfectionism preoccupation
problems in the self-control of emotions that brings significant conflict
racing thoughts
rapid speech
recurrent and persistent thoughts
repetitive behaviours applied rigidly
repetitive mental acts applied rigidly
restricted range of emotional expression
sad mood
self-control problems that bring the individual into significant conflict
self-image instability
sleeping troubles
slowing down of thoughts and actions
social inhibition
somatic changes that affect the individual’s capacity to function
spending less time with friends and family
staying home from work or school
submissive and clinging behaviour
suicide thoughts
unable to adjust a particular stressor






Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s