Why Occupy the APA?


This peaceful protest was conceived by MindFreedom International, which has worked for 26 years as an independent voice of survivors of psychiatric human rights violations, to expose the fact that the proposed fifth edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s “bible,” the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) pushes the mental health industry to medicalize problems that aren’t medical, inevitably leading to over-prescription of psychiatric drugs – including for people experiencing natural human emotions,  such as grief and shyness.


Occupy the APA has attracted participants from across the mental health community who oppose the proposed DSM-5. This includes the Coalition for DSM-5 Reform, whose petition has been signed by more than 13,000 psychologists.


The Coalition for DSM-5 Reform is “concerned about some proposed changes [in the DSM] that have no basis in the scientific literature. These changes pose substantial risks to patients/clients, practitioners, and the mental health professions in general.” To quote from Coalition literature, areas of particular concern include:


·         Lowering of diagnostic thresholds, which may expand the number of people who meet criteria for certain disorders and lead to an increase in false-positive diagnoses.

·         Certain proposed revisions may lead to misuse in vulnerable populations, such as children and the elderly. This is particularly concerning if some of the newly proposed disorders are to be treated with neuroleptics, which are known to have dangerous side-effects.

·         The proposed wording of the new definition of mental disorder is ambiguous, and if read literally may risk resulting in the labeling of sociopolitical deviance as mental disorder.

·         The personality disorders section is perplexing. A member of the Personality Disorders Workgroup has publicly described the proposals as “a disappointing and confusing mixture of innovation and preservation of the status quo that is inconsistent, lacks coherence, is impractical, and, in places, is incompatible with empirical facts” (Livesley, 2010).

·         Conditions proposed by outside sources include questionable suggestions such as Apathy Syndrome, Internet Addiction Disorder, and Parental Alienation Syndrome.

·         Various changes throughout the manual place subtle emphasis on medico-physiological theory. . . . This move is problematic because growing evidence suggests that psychopathology cannot be reduced to purely biological explanations and that psychotropic medications pose substantial iatrogenic hazards.


Among the conclusions reached by the Coalition for DSM-5 Reform is that “there is a need for a revision of the way mental distress is thought about, starting with recognition of the overwhelming evidence that it is on a spectrum with ‘normal’ experience and the fact that strongly evidenced causal factors include psychosocial factors such as poverty, unemployment and trauma.”