Jimmy Cagney in White Heat (1949): “Made it, Ma! Top of the world!”

Jor­dan Ellen­berg has a great arti­cle up on Slate on “The Math­e­mat­ics of Nar­cis­sism.” There are two related themes run­ning through it.

One theme sur­rounds the over­haul of the cur­rent Diag­nos­tic and Sta­tis­ti­cal Man­ual of Men­tal Dis­or­ders, Fourth Edi­tion Revised (DSM IV-​​R), the “Bible” for psy­chi­atric pro­fes­sion­als. The DSM is the way in which psy­chi­a­trists and psy­chol­o­gists clas­sify men­tal dis­or­ders into clumps so that we can use a com­mon lan­guage in talk­ing about patients and dis­eases. The other is about the rank­ing of grad­u­ate pro­grams. Find­ing the com­mon­al­ity between these two themes is a great rea­son to read the arti­cle, which I highly recommend.

The over­haul of the DSM is an infre­quent and impor­tant event in psy­chol­ogy and psy­chi­a­try. In the immor­tal words of Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Biden, “It’s a big fuck­ing deal!” Basi­cally, the revi­sions in the DSM cod­ify and stan­dard­ize the cur­rent mod­els of how the mind works. In order to stan­dard­ize the clas­si­fi­ca­tion and treat­ment of psy­chi­atric dis­or­ders, we need a book that describes to the best of our cur­rent abil­ity what is wrong and what is right.

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