April 7, 2012
Deciding What’s Normal. What a great topic for me to lobby folks around at the TEDMED conference this coming week in Washington, D.C. The topic and I are 1 of 50 “Great Challenges” in health and medicine that will be represented at the conference, along with the usual program of speakers and dinners and networking. I’m thrilled I was chosen as a Great Challenge Advocate, and look forward to discovering and creating what that means! Of course, I’ll be talking about the DSM-5 controversy.
I’m also excited to attend the whole conference. I love TED Talks. I tell people where ever I go to watch one every day—for their health. A few weeks ago I gave a TED Talks “course” at the All Stars Project’s free university-style development center for people of all ages, showing one talk each week, followed by discussion and some performance exercises. It’s very gratifying to see people create conversation and joy in how they’re learning and growing together!
Here’s the description of my Great Challenge:
Deciding What’s Normal
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) is about to be revised for the fifth time, redefining what counts as mental pathology and what doesn’t.
There’s already controversy about making it harder to diagnose Asperger’s syndrome, and making it easier to count grief as a treatable “condition.” But it’s not only psychiatry where the boundaries of normal will shift. They also shift with blood pressure levels and cholesterol levels, to name several major parameters. (The metrics themselves don’t change — just the ranges that are considered “normal” readings.)
These definitions have huge implications in terms of insurance coverage and reimbursement, pharmaceutical development, and our very sense of ourselves. Who should decide what’s “normal” — and how?