The American Psychiatric Association is now working on the 5th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, otherwise known as the DSM. There will be some new categories as well as some possible exclusions of what is considered a “mental illness.”

Next time you hear that an estimated 54 million Americans suffer from some form of mental disorder, (approximately 1 out of every 6 people) don’t panic! If you do, you will be in danger of raising the stats to 1 out of every 5 people. And if 25 years ago homosexuality was not eliminated from the list of DSM diseases, the percentage of Americans who would have been labeled mentally ill would’ve been substantially higher. (A 2011 Gallup poll claims that 25% of Americans are gay.)

If we keep thinking of every “different” way of living as “mental illness,” we just might be on the road to making a mentally healthy person a quaint relic of the past. And what will that do to our standing as the leader of the free world? Other countries already look down on us for being obese and living unhealthy lifestyles. Will they then think of us as a “nation of nuts?”

If the amount of people “suffering” from “mental disorders” seems a bit “crazy” to you, here’s what you need to know. It’s not that mental illnesses don’t exist. Of course they do. But the pain and struggles and difficulties that people experience as they try to cope with the many ups and downs of life are not necessarily “disorders.” We should not expect life to be so easy that people's reactions will always be "ordered.” So, if you are feeling anxious, stressed, depressed or simply out of sorts, don’t let anybody convince you that you have a “mental disorder.” It’s probably not true.

Today, there are more than 200 classified forms of mental illness. Why the proliferation of these diseases? Follow the money folks. Get a diagnosis and major medical insurance companies must pay for treatment. In addition, you or your child, may well qualify for special services and special education. In other words, getting a diagnosis pays off.

Now, I‘m not a trailblazer who is attempting to take on the entire mental illness industry. It’s way too entrenched for me to do that. And though I sometimes cooperate with the system by filling out forms for people’s insurance coverage, I’d like you to know that I DO NOT TREAT DISEASES. I leave that to the physicians. What I do, as a psychologist, is to TREAT PEOPLE who are having a tough time in life. How do I do this?

I encourage people to tell their stories.
I listen to people who have never been listened to before.
I provide people with comfort.
I provide people with hope.
I show people how to expand their options.
I show people how to reduce their stress.
I help people discover new roads.
I help people clarify confusion.
I help people free themselves from their prisons.

Some people who come to me need to vent.
Some need direction.
Some need to be held.
Some need to be respected.
Some need to think.
Some need to feel.
Some need to take a break.
Some need to get moving.
Some need to mourn.
Some need to rejoice.
Some need to know that they are important.
Some need to know that others are important.
Some need it all.

And I’m there to help. And I do.

But I do not treat their disease. I treat them.

© 2012

Author's Bio: 

Linda Sapadin, Ph.D. is a psychologist in private practice who specializes in helping people enrich their lives, enhance their relationships and overcome self-defeating patterns of behavior. To subscribe to her FREE E-newsletter, go to Contact her at LSapadin@DrSapadin.comThis e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . Follow her on twitter @DrSapadin or Facebook Linda Sapadin, PhD.

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