As you likely already know, a draft of the DSM 5 came out Wednesday.
There’s a lot of interesting stuff to look through, but the part I had the biggest reaction to was the addition of Non-Suicidal Self Injury. Funny that this is what interested me, because in general research on self-injury bores me.
My initial reaction was entirely positive, but after some more thought I realized some potential problems. So, here’s a list of pros and cons.
Too often people who self injure get stuck with the borderline personality disorder diagnosis who don’t meet the criteria only because they self injure. In the paper explaining the rationale for this addition (It’s a quick read. I recommend skimming through it if you’re at all interested) the authors mention that self injury occurs in many different disorders.
The specific wording in the title differentiates self injury from a suicide attempt. Hopefully this can help to cut down on some of the overreaction from practitioners about self injury.
Does self injury really belong as its own disorder? Are there people who self injure on multiple occasions without any other diagnosis? Is there research on this? Seems strange to add a disorder that might only rarely be seen in isolation, increasing problems of co-morbidity.
But I understand that the way the DSM is set up, it has to be its own disorder or nothing at all. Possibly the benefits outweigh the negatives of added co-morbidity.
In the article (page 10-11) the authors justify self-injury as a separate phenomena by mentioning a longitudinal study showing that self injury decreased independent of other symptoms. This study was done only on patients with borderline diagnoses, not sure it is fair to generalize this to other patients especially because this new disorder plays a role to separate self injury away from only borderline personality disorder.
My largest problem is with section B: “The behavior and its consequences cause clinically significant distress or impairment in interpersonal, academic, or other important areas of functioning.”
This seems like a benign thing to add. Similar qualifiers are in every disorder.
Here’s the problem: The way it is written right now, I don’t meet the criteria for this disorder. I don’t have impairment or distress from the self injury, but I have a lot of that from the feelings leading up to the self injury.
Seems silly. No one would try to argue with me that what I do is self injury. I’ve even participated in a number of studies researching non-suicidal self injury. Those studies could easily be used to support inclusion of this diagnosis, wouldn’t make sense for their participants to not all qualify.
Instead, I feel section B should be written something like this: “The behavior, its consequences and/or feelings precipitating the behavior cause clinically significant distress or impairment in interpersonal, academic, or other important areas of functioning.”
The current writing reflects an unfortunate trend to treat self-injury as the problem rather than the reasons for self injury. Certainly many people feel guilt over their self injury, but this is not the case with everyone.
The authors touched upon a similar idea in their section, “Placement in the system: A Mood or a Behavior Disorder?” (Pages 8-9). Much of their argument leads towards placing it in mood disorders, with a side note of similarity towards impulse control disorders, so it seems strange for the mood component to be omitted from the impairment part of the diagnostic criteria.