A recent study conducted by the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology found that more than a third of Europeans suffer from a mental disorder.Only a third? I found myself thinking. Surley the other two thirds are in some sort of denial regarding their mental state. Or maybe they just haven’t had a chance to flick through the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders yet.
The DSM – as it is more commonly known, is the bible for mental disorders. It defines and classifies mental disorders ranging from phobias through to psychotic disorders. It is the checklist that psychiatrists use to diagnosis their patients.I have found myself thumbing through the DSM manual a few days ago after a friend of mine described my behaviour as completely and utterly OCD.I had never considered myself to have any type of mental disorder. I was unaware that that my behaviour could be seen as out of the ordinary. and I have never felt that the way I act impedes on my life.
My friend diagnosed me at a BBQ we both attended. The outside garden was decorated in cube shaped mood lights, which were changing colour at regular intervals.Blue, purple, red, pink, yellow, green then back to blue again. As the sun begun to set all the guests admired the lights but they made me feel slightly unsettled. “You can’t have a pink light next to yellow light. The colours don’t sit well together” As soon as I said this the pink light became yellow and the yellow light had moved on to green.”Pink and green this is all wrong I started reorganising all ten lights so the colours would complement the neighbouring light at any given time.”I need to form a gradient with these colours” I said as I reorganised the cubes.The partygoers had all gone quiet as they watched me reshuffle little square coloured lights around. This is the point when my drunk friend delivered his diagnosis on me. “you are so OCD” he said.
Thumbing through the DSM I begun to self diagnose. Primary Insomnia; tick. Generalised Anxiety Disorder; yep that is me! Claustrophobia; I avoid traveling on the underground at all costs. ADHD; I do have issues concentrating. OCD; oh my god I am riddled with mental health problems.I was completely unaware of how insane I was! Quickly closing the manual and vacating the bookstore I could feel my freshly diagnosed Generalised Anxiety Disorder kicking in. Best I go to a café and get a cup of tea until this anxiety passes.
Sitting in the café, it dawns on me that none of these things have been an issue for me until now, and maybe the only problem I do have is hypochondria. It is understandable I have an eye for colour. I spent twelve years of my life working as a designer for new media and colours were a big part of this career. I look out the window and notice all the different colours the world has to offer. People walking past other people with clothing that clearly did not match. The world was a jumble of colours and I had never noticed it. It had never upset me until now. I start to visualise myself in the future, my hair is messy; I am dressed from head to toe all in one colour. I walk out on to the street and start directing people dependant on what colour they are wearing. “Red people must walk this way, pink people can’t stand to close to orange people and the people wearing multiple colours must remove their clothing” I shudder at the thought. Surly I would be sectioned? Maybe this is how it all starts? By drawing attention to something it gets bigger. I reassure myself, it was never a problem before, it is not going to be a problem now.
The DSM has been criticised for many reasons. Inventing mental illness. The Manual grows with every edition; will it keep growing until we are all classed as mentally ill?It also focuses on symptoms instead of causes. Popping a pill may help some people, but surly we should be addressing the underlying emotional issues which make someone the way they are rather than resorting to box ticking and prescription writing.
For myself I am happy in my colour OCD ways and if I am happy then that is all that counts.