Monday, December 12, 2005


The American Psychiatric Association is debating whether to add extreme forms of bias and prejudice as a diagnostic category to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), which is used by psychiatrists, psychologists and other mental health professionals to diagnose clients. While everyone has various levels of bias, the argument goes, some people have a bias that is so overwhelming that it prevents them from functioning -- for example, someone who is so biased against a group, say "mimes," that they won't leave the house for fear that they will run into a mime.

Personally, since my stint in the Masters of Counseling program at ASU, I've come to believe that the psychological community has a tendency to over-pathologize - like the old saying that when you're a hammer everything looks like a nail. Psychologists have historically been used as instruments of social control - pathologizing those whom the state or society disagrees with. While I'm hardly a big fan of racism or homophobia or other types of bias, I fear the mindset that we should pathologize and medicate those we don't agree with. I'm sure there are people out there who truly have a pathological level of bias - at the same time, this just strikes me as a path that we ought not take.


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