Let’s talk crazy.

The most authoritative text on mental illness is The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (the “DSM”). The DSM, published by the American Psychiatric Association, is in its fifth edition, affectionately referred to as “DSM5”. It is the “go-to” book for mental health and guardianship judges.

DSM5 has 22 chapters listing various forms of recognized mental illnesses. The Big Three mental illnesses that are commonly seen in the mental health and guardianship courts are: Schizophrenia spectrum and related disorders, Bipolar spectrum and related disorders, and Depressive disorders.

Here’s a quick run-down of descriptions:

Schizophrenia is an illness that is defined by its symptoms: delusion, hallucination, disorganized thinking, gross or abnormal motor behavior, catatonic behavior, and negative symptoms (such as sitting for a long period of time and showing little interest in activities). Usually someone suffering from schizophrenia doesn’t perceive the same reality that everyone else does.

Bipolar is a disorder where the person suffers from manic highs and lows. There are gradations of bipolar disorder, with classifications ranging from psychosis with mood episodes to less severe episodes.

Depressive disorder is when someone has the presence of a sad, empty or irritable mood, together with cognitive changes, that significantly affects the individual’s capacity to function.

After the Big Three, DSM5 addresses 19 other psychiatric conditions, ranging from Neurodevelopmental Disorder (e.g. Down’s syndrome, Asperger’s syndrome) to Personality Disorder (e.g. paranoid, schizoid).

The American Psychiatric Association is always on the look-out for new disorders. In 2013, they formally recognized Disruptive Mood Dysregulation, which is defined as chronic, severe and persistent irritability in children, with 3 or more temper tantrums in a week.

DSM5 is not light reading. It should not be used by amateurs for self-diagnosis or for analyzing their in-laws. It is nice, however, to know what the experts rely upon.

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The information contained in this article is general information only and does not constitute legal advice. ©2015