Is the Human Experience a Mental Disorder?

“Prolonged Grief Disorder” is now in the DSM, but it seems pretty normal to me.

Adeline Dimond


Last month, the Washington Post reported that a new disorder will be making its debut in the latest version of the DSM, the DSM-5-TR. For the uninitiated, “the DSM” is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the go-to guide used by health professionals to diagnose — you guessed it — mental health disorders. I’ve never bought a copy, but it’s fun to google some of the disorders (which come with handy lists of symptoms) if you want to diagnose ex-boyfriends and figure out why they’re ghosting you. (I’ve diagnosed mine most often with narcissistic personality disorder and borderline personality disorder).

Other than using the DSM to determine that the end of my relationships are not my fault, I’ve had no use for it. I am not a mental health professional or a scientist. But I’ve been curious about the DSM over the years, because sometimes it seems to be more of a cultural handbook than a scientific one.

It’s not without controversy for this very reason: homosexuality was listed as a disorder in its early versions, until it was removed in 1973. Some mental health professionals sounded the alarm in 2013 when the DSM-5 introduced “Unspecified Schizophrenia Spectrum Disorder” which only required that you have “some distress from unspecified symptoms” which is clearly a recipe for the establishment to just throw up their hands and call you nuts if you step out of line.

If you think that’s a paranoid way to view the DSM — which is, admittedly, based on long-term studies — get a load of the newest pathology: “Prolonged Grief Disorder” or PGD. That’s right. If you’re too sad about losing a loved one, or sad for too long, congratulations — you are crazy. Expect men dressed in white with butterfly nets.

According to the definition of PGD, you have a year to be sad, and then buck up kiddo, ’cause you gotta snap out of it. After the year is up, PGD is initially defined “by a daily, intense yearning for the deceased or a preoccupation with thoughts or memories of them.” Once you clear that hurdle, you need three of the following symptoms to be declared off your onion: identity confusion, disbelief, avoidance of…