NAIL BITING. NOW A MENTAL DISORDER
For some time I’ve been thinking I might have a mental disorder and now I have the proof. I do. I found one. At last.
I have dermatillomania. This is a compulsive behaviour that finds the sufferer (that’s me) habitually picking at skin. Given that I have more pimples in my 40s than I did as a teenager, this is a bit like a full time job.
And now, thanks to fresh news from the American Psychiatry Association, I know it is an illness too.
So is biting your nails and pulling your hair.
Next year a new version of the famed DSM – the very large and getting larger mental disorder manual – will include “pathological grooming” in the same category as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, or OCD.
Seriously? How much normal human behaviour can be pathologised?
Normal sadness and grief after death – bereavement – will be considered to be depression. Teenage rebellion is already “oppositional defiance disorder.” Just being a little neurotic and you might be considered as obsessive compulsive.
Back in the day, the weird girl down the road who obsessively cleaned the bricks on her house was just the weird girl down the road who obsessively cleaned the brinks on her house. Otherwise she was Sue, and she got over it.
The DSM-5 – already being criticised as “overly inclusive” – will make patients of all of us. And in turn, it will make customers out of us too – for the drug companies that would treat our disorders.
One doctor has written in the Psychiatric Times: “ DSM5 appears to be promoting what we have most feared–the inclusion of many normal variants under the rubric of mental illness, with the result that the core concept of “mental disorder” is greatly undermined.
This is, perhaps, the most serious implication.
As for me and my disorder, there is an online support group for CSP (Compulsive Skin Picking) sufferers which has nearly 600 members, according to fellow sufferer Joanne Limburg, who writes in Psychology Today.
She asked my fellow sufferers what they would like other people to understand about CSP, and this was one of the answers:
“We’re not crazy. Everyone has that thing they do that they know they shouldn’t. This is ours.”
Exactly. Not. Crazy. It’s just a bad habit, not a sinister sign of some deeper mental malaise that may just happen to require some prescribed medication.
While we might all be varying degrees of crazy, is this taking things a bit too far?
And what bad habit do you have that might be mistaken for a mental disorder?
*Lucy Clark (Editor of The Hoopla) is a journalist and editor with almost thirty years experience in newspapers and magazines in Sydney, London, and New York. She has been published in The Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian, The Daily and Sunday Telegraphs, Vogue Living, Australian Art Review, and Gourmet Traveller. Most recently the Books Editor of the Sunday Telegraph, she has also contributed to the non-fiction books, Australia Through Time, and What Women Want. You can follow her on twitter: @lucykateclark.