February 26, 2010

DSM: Paraphilia controversy escalating

Brouhaha hits Land Down Under

Last week, I reported on a scathing denunciation by Allen Frances, MD, chair of the DSM-IV Task Force, of the draft proposal for the 5th edition of the diagnostic manual. Frances was particularly critical of the proposed sexual disorders, calling pedohebephilia "one of the most poorly written and unworkable" proposals to surface.

Now, Kenneth Zucker, chair of the DSM-V Sexual Disorders Work Group, has fired back in a letter to the Psychiatric Times. Defending not only pedohebephilia but also the other two controversial diagnoses of Hypersexual Disorder and Paraphilic Coercive Disorder, Zucker accused Frances of shooting from the hip, and "fir[ing] off criticisms as quickly as his grandchildren might tweet to their friends."

Frances fired right back, reiterating critics' central concern that these disorders lend themselves to "a grave misuse of psychiatry by the legal system in the handling of sexually violent predators”:
Every new diagnosis suggested for DSM5 requires (but has not yet received) a searching risk/benefit analysis and a thorough forensic review. I am confident that none of the suggestions for new diagnoses made by the Sexual Disorders Work Group would stand up to such scrutiny.
Today, experts in the Land Down Under chimed in with concern over Paraphilic Coercive Disorder. "Fears proposed new illness will be misused in court by rapists," reads the headline in the Sydney Morning Herald.

The reemergence of a proposal that was soundly rejected as a diagnosis in the 1980s "has come as a surprise to some psychologists," Nick Miller reports.

Lisa Phillips, a senior lecturer in psychological sciences at the University of Melbourne, echoes Frances' concerns over the potentially far-reaching legal implications of pathologizing rape as a mental disorder. Reiterating the concerns of feminists back in the 1980s, she said it could be used by rapists to avoid criminal responsibility for their acts.

This point fits with an intriguing insight by the brilliant legal scholar Eric Janus, who has written and lectured extensively on sex offender civil commitment and psychology-law topics more generally for the past couple of decades.

In Failure to Protect: America's Sexual Predator Laws and the Rise of the Preventive State (a book I highly recommend), Janus argues that the "tabloid model of gender violence" epitomized in sexually violent predator laws has -- perhaps accidentally -- become a powerful force for the politically conservative agenda of dismantling hard-fought feminist rape reforms. Like the newly proposed diagnoses, these laws favors biological and psychological explanations over sociocultural ones, and supports the patriarchal rape myth that rapists "lack control" over their sexual impulses.

Imagine the dustup if feminist psychiatrists and psychologists take note of these ersatz diagnoses and link up in opposition with legal scholars and psychologists concerned about their pretextual uses in civil commitment proceedings. And that's before transsexuals, furious over the Work Group's Gender Identity Disorder proposals, join the vocal chorus.


Augustin said...

"Every new diagnosis suggested for DSM5 requires (but has not yet received) a searching risk/benefit analysis and a thorough forensic review."

A strange criticism given that they never did such an analysis when they created DSM-IV.

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Aiping Wang said...
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