The DSM (or the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) in theory is a great idea. Since society (or is it human nature?) drives us to quantify and understand the world around us and ourselves, it makes sense that people created a manual on mental health. However, in certain instances the drive for concrete rules regarding mental health can become marginalizing. In fact, sometimes it can prevent an individual from gaining treatment.

Taking eating disorders as an example, below is a partial list of issue that the DSM has caused (or does cause).

1. Until the new DSM- V (2013), anorexia nervosa had requirements related to menstruation. To be diagnosed with anorexia nervosa, one had to have not had a menstruation cycle for at least to three months (or meet certain other criteria in a different category). But what about men? Or menopausal women? Or pregnant women?

2. Binge Eating Disorder has only been recognized in the new DSM as an eating disorder. That means that for years, these individuals have been discriminated against and not able to get treatment because their disorder was not recognized by the DSM specifically (it was recognized within other communities).

3. Diabulmia and orthorexia remain unrecognized by the DSM. Although they are largely recognized within the eating disorder community, their lack of recognition in the DSM can be used by insurance companies for insurance denial. Also treatment options are not as widely available.

4. The default categorizing of individuals who don’t quite fit into other categories as Eating Disorders Not Otherwise Specified (in DSM IV) or Other Unspecified Feeding and Eating Disorder (DSM V). This is often used as a default diagnosis for individuals without understanding the complexities of the situation.  This also often means that insurance companies have a basis of denial of treatment.

Although I have less specific knowledge on other parts of the DSM, I am sure the same types of problems exist in other parts of the manual.

For more info on DSM V changes regarding eating disorders.