WASHINGTON — Don't say "mental retardation" — the new term is "intellectual disability." No more diagnoses of Asperger's syndrome — call it a mild version of autism instead. And while "behavioral addictions" will be new to doctors' dictionaries, "Internet addiction" didn't make the cut.
The American Psychiatric Association is proposing major changes today to its diagnostic bible, the manual that doctors, insurers and scientists use in deciding what's officially a mental disorder and what symptoms to treat. In a new twist, it is seeking feedback via the Internet from psychiatrists and the general public about whether the changes will be helpful before finalizing them.
The manual suggests some new diagnoses. Gambling so far is the lone identified behavioral addiction, but in the new category of learning disabilities are problems with both reading and math. Also new is binge eating, distinct from bulimia because the binge eaters don't purge.
Sure to generate debate, the draft also proposes diagnosing people as being at high risk of developing some serious mental disorders — such as dementia or schizophrenia — based on early symptoms, even though there's no way to know who will worsen into full-blown illness. It's a category the psychiatrist group's own leaders say must be used with caution, as scientists don't yet have treatments to lower that risk but also don't want to miss people on the cusp of needing care.
Another change: The draft sets scales to estimate both adults and teens most at risk of suicide, stressing that suicide occurs with numerous mental illnesses, not just depression.