I have become aware from a blog I visit often of an addition to the new DSM-5. DSM stands for the "Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders" which is published by the American Psychiatric Association (5 being its 5th edition which is about to go to the printers and will be released in May 2013.) The DSM is sort of the Bible of mental disorders because it’s what health care practitioners use to decide if their patients have a psychiatric disorder or not.
The new addition is the Somatic Symptom Disorder or SSD. The word “somatization” refers to psychological stress that manifests in the form of physical symptoms. In other words, a person’s physical symptoms are traceable to a mental or emotional cause rather than to a physical one.
Which is troublesome is the way SSD is diagonosed:
A person will meet the criteria for SSD by reporting just one bodily symptom that is distressing and/or disruptive to daily life and having just one of the following three reactions to it that persists for at least six months:
1) 'disproportionate' thoughts about the seriousness of their symptom(s); or
2) a high level of anxiety about their health; or,
3) devoting excessive time and energy to symptoms or health concerns.
And indeed, the words "disproportionate", "high" and "excessive" are subjective and open to interpreation. And I think, I could even fall in every category: I'm worried about how my spinal issues will progress, sometimes I get very anxious (especially during flare-ups) reaching almost panick attacks (however these are consequences not the cause of my being in pain) and I continue to research looking for options for my condition.
However, MRI and EMG tests confirm my problem so I wouldn't expect to be diagnosed with SSD. But how about those many people whose level of pain do not match any test results or whose diagnosis could take more than six months (if ever) to come to light. Are they at risk of being diagnosed as having a psychiatric disorder and not a bodily one?
And what about the stigma of mental illness, prescription of drugs, one's self perception, missed diagnoses, insurance consequences and more?
I encourage you to get more informed about this topic. You may look for an article intitled "Mislabeling Medical Illness as Mental Disorder". I didn't include its link because I think it's against this forum policies, but you may look for it as well.