Tag Archives: DSM

The DSM-V Sucks: Self-Diagnosis?

I’m sure a bunch of people are the same as me. You think you’re fucked up in the head and start Googling what the hell your problem is. Do I have chronic depression? Am I bipolar? For fuck sake, do I have borderline personality disorder? This inevitably leads to the Wikipedia page of said symptom which also inevitably leads to you reading something like “[disorder] is recognized by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) as a personality disorder” and if you obsessively do this enough you’ll notice every psychological issue in the world’s Wikipedia entry mentions the DSM-V, whatever the fuck that is.

But Wikipedia is full of links so if you obsessively read psychological issues you’ll also inevitably click the DSM link and already know what it is. If you don’t, it’s the American Psychological Association’s Diagnostic Manual for mental issues. Were talking anxiety, depression, substance abuse, mental disorders, and anything else you can think of. I see it as like a Bible of disorders/mental issues and also seemed like a book that would be a good reference to have on hand. I’m a huge fan of general use reference books such as this and it has the same appeal to me that a good set of socket wrenches or a multimeter has; you never know when you’ll need it!

Having the DSM-V is a dangerous thing though. It’s almost like an IRL Necronomicon as much as it’s the psychologist’s Bible where you have a bunch of dangerous information at your grasp that you’re probably too uneducated to properly use. Myself included because I have no fucking clue how a psychologist would actually use the damn thing. Do they reference it? Do they need to follow the clear steps for diagnoses or is it like a guideline? And what the hell are all the codes for?

Luckily I’m not too much of a dumbass to know that you’re not suppose to diagnose yourself or others with your own Amazon copy of the DSM-V. I’m not a trained psychologist or anything so know I can’t use the book to pretend to be one. But it’s a fucking pandora’s box of mental disorders and it’s impossible to read anything and not have the temptation to diagnose other people or especially yourself! It’s like the mental equivalent of looking up physical symptoms on WebMD. “Oh, I have a cough, shortness of breath, and…holy shit! I could have cancer? Fuck. Me.

(Fun Fact of Funness: Amazon obviously has copies of the DSM-V, but since it’s a textbook you’re going to be price-gouged like you’d expect. I originally found copies for over $100 which I wasn’t going to buy. But somehow, for some reason, I found this copy of it. Sure, it says “unknown binding” which sounds risky, but fuck, it’s a legit book! I was worried it would be loose-leaf pages or something, maybe a .pdf on a mini-SD card, but no, it’s a real soft-cover textbook. So if you want to buy your own copy of this book for 30% the cost of the “real”(hard-cover) version, click that fucking link. No I don’t get money for recommending this, it’s just such a good deal to be nearly unbelievable.)

Sadly I’m smart enough to buy it, think I know the proper use of it, believe I won’t misuse it, and whoops, pandora’s box is open and I’m wondering what disorders I and everyone else around me has.

Personality Disorders and Such

The DSM lists ten personality disorders. It’s tempting to think everyone has a disorder, but the whole idea behind a disorder is that it isn’t normal and is a hindrance to some degree in everyday life. Personality disorders aren’t like your zodiac sign or you Meier/Briggs personality type; you might not have one at all.

(Note about things being ‘normal.’ There is some controversy as to what a disorder is because it’s based off some nebulous idea of “normalcy.” Who’s to say what’s normal and what isn’t? Obviously some disorders are more ‘crazy’ than others, but where would you draw the line between ‘normal’ and ‘abnormal’? What seperates a disorder from a person simply being unique?)

That’s the first problem to solve: do I even have a personality disorder? To me, something seems off, but I’m not a psychologist and I only know myself so it’s impossible to gauge whether or not I’m ‘normal’ or if I have a disorder. Like I said, it’s not a good idea to diagnose yourself, but just for shits and giggles I wanted to take an educated guess at what disorders I could have.

There are ten personality disorders in the DSM-V. Just to rattle off a few: borderline, histrionic, obsessive-compulsive, antisocial, dependent, avoidant, and let’s not forget everyone’s favorite disorder narcissistic personality disorder!

It’s interesting to discover that I show signs of nearly all the ten disorders. None seem clear enough that I can label myself with one but each one has traits that seem fitting. I have the selfishness of someone with narcissistic personality disorder, but seem to lack the lack of empathy and powerful ego that is characteristic of the disorder. Everyone has a little bit of paranoia floating around in their minds, and the same is true for me, but this probably doesn’t mean I have paranoid personality disorder. The mood swings I seem to have sound terrifyingly similar to borderline disorder, but lack the angry outbursts and unstable relationships that categorize those with borderline. I can’t make my own decisions very well, and this sounds like someone who could have dependent personality disorder, but probably not because I don’t fit the rest of the traits. Oh, and the need to be in control like those with obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (not to be confused with the stock OCD), but once more I lack the rest of the symptoms or traits to actually be diagnosed with it.

Around this time I’m starting to feel even more fucked up, wondering if I’m a borderline/narcissist/antisocial and a few other terrifying ones. You can have more than one disorder! Strangely, I’m also wondering if I don’t have any actual disorders and, holy hell, what if I’m normal! Somehow that seems worse in a way. Like none of the drama that plays out in my mind is special or notable because it’s just typical life bullshit that everyone experiences and that maybe I’m blowing it all out of proportion. And this sounds like something a narcissist would say…

Then I stumbled upon one of the lesser known and “boring” personality disorders: avoidant personality disorder. I’d never heard of it before. But reading the traits gave me that horrible sinking feeling that things were a bit too truthful and were hitting a bit close to home. Sure, I read about narcissistic personality disorder and found a few things that sounded like me, but the rest were a stretch. But APD? Holy fuck. I seemed to have nearly all the traits of that disorder. These people avoid others unless they’re certain they are liked. These people are very insecure and have fragile egos and don’t take criticism well. They’re needy and always searching for approval  I read towards the end of the section and then shut the book. My adventure of reading about personality disorders was taking a turn for the worst. Here I was reading about disorders and fantasizing about what it would be like to have them, wondering what people I know (if any) might have them, but reading about APD took me out of mild curiosity into serious self-introspection. It was like I was reading a person critique about my personality. I stopped reading, laughed, closed the book, and said, “Oh, wow. That’s enough of the DSM for tonight. Yikes…”

I’ll probably write about possibly having avoidant personality disorder sometime soon because there’s a lot to unpack here. It sounds so close to who I am and how I feel and it’s like another layer of the proverbial onion has been exposed. But until then, maybe use some caution when you bust open your own personal copy of the DSM-V for ‘casual reading’ purposes. Things can get a bit dark and too real when you least expect it. But still it’s a good reference to have on hand and I highly recommend it.

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