When I graduated from high school, apparently homosexuality was listed as a mental disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual used by psychiatrists to diagnose mental conditions. I didn’t know it at the time, of course, because to the best of my knowledge there weren’t any homosexuals in my home town and there possibly weren’t even any in the whole state of Kansas. It was a rare condition, my mother assured me.
Unbeknownst to me, there were also gay activists in 1974, and they pushed the American Psychiatric Association to remove it from the DSM. It was removed, and since then a lot a of new illnesses have been added. As edition five came out this spring, psychiatrists took a lot of grief for classing so many types of behavior as “illnesses.” For example, disruptive mood dysregulation disorder threatens to turn children with too many temper tantrums into those with a mental disorder and binge eating (defined as excessive eating 12 times in 3 months and I wonder if my ice cream habit puts me over the top here) is now an official mental illness.
On the one hand, classification as an illness does allow those who want help to get their insurance to pay for it, if they have insurance 🙂 . On the other hand, having your idiosyncrasies or your own areas for personal growth classed as a mental disorder could be life altering in negative ways as well.
So what of homosexuality as a form of mental illness? Well, a few months ago Saul Levin, an openly gay man, was named the new American Psychiatric Association chief executive officer and medical director.
Things do change with time. In the case of Dr. Levin, I’m glad that they have and I wish him the best. In the case of the new mental illness referred to as “hoarding disorder” …… well, I prefer to still consider it one my more charming little eccentricities.