| 24.5°C Dublin

Shyness could be defined as a mental illness


Getty Images

Getty Images

Getty Images

SHYNESS, bereavement and eccentric behaviour could be classed as a mental illness under new guidelines, leaving millions of people at risk of being diagnosed as having a psychiatric disorder, experts fear.

Under changes planned to the diagnosis handbook used by doctors in the US, common behavioural traits are likely to be listed as a mental illness, it was reported.

The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) of Mental Disorders could also include internet addiction and gambling as a medical problem.

Although the guidelines are not used in the UK, experts said they feared it would affect thinking on the subjects.

"We need to be very careful before further broadening the boundaries of illness and disorder," Simon Wessely, of the Institute of Psychiatry at King's College London, told the Daily Mail.

"Back in 1840 the census of the United States included just one category for mental disorder.

"By 1917 the American Psychiatric Association recognised 59, rising to 128 in 1959, 227 in 1980, and 347 in the last revision. Do we really need all these labels?

"Probably not. And there is a real danger that shyness will become social phobia, bookish kids labelled as Asperger's and so on."

Peter Kinderman, head of the Institute of Psychology at the University of Liverpool, said it was not "humane" to describe shy or bereaved people as "mentally ill".

The British Psychological Society has opposed the changes to the DSM while psychiatrists in the US have also spoken out against them.

A petition launched to try to stop the publication of the new edition was backed by 11,000 signatures from psychologists.

There are fears the new classifications are being driven by drug companies seeking to profit from a greater number of illnesses while the private health care system in the States requires a diagnosis recognised by the manual for a patient to be treated as ill.

Daily Digest Newsletter

Get ahead of the day with the morning headlines at 7.30am and Fionnán Sheahan's exclusive take on the day's news every afternoon, with our free daily newsletter.

This field is required

"DSM5 will radically and recklessly expand the boundaries of psychiatry. Many millions will receive inaccurate diagnosis and inappropriate treatment.," said Allen Frances of Duke University, North Carolina.

Telegraph Media Group Limited [2022]