Despite aggressive advocacy to accomplish the feat, the American Psychiatric Association has declined to identify Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) as a separate, diagnosable mental health disorder.
“The bottom line – it is not a disorder within one individual,” said Dr. Darrel Regier, vice chair of the task force drafting the manual. “It’s a relationship problem – parent-child or parent-parent. Relationship problems per se are not mental disorders.” Opponents to including PAS in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders-Fifth Edition (DSM-V) also say that including the diagnosis would increased the cost and litigiousness of some high conflict litigants, as it would have provided another opportunity to debate whether one does or does not suffer from this very specific diagnosis, and if so, what degree of culpability can be assigned to the individual and what treatment modalities should be employed beyond those assigned to other diagnosable mental health ailments which the parent faces.
For a review of the varying opinions regarding this issue, check out this article discussing the recent news:
Those who say that the reason for not recognizing PAS as a mental illness is the potential that the new definition could be used to escalate costs in a divorce dispute are either apologists making money from the current system, or very out of touch with reality.
Also, staying that “feminists” oppose the diagonosis is ludicrous. A group of diagruntled and misinformed women do not “feminists” make. A true feminist should be fighting for equality of Fathers’ rights, not trying to stop men from assuming a more nurturing role in children’s lives. I am an equal rights supporter and a mother. I do not feel threatened by men as they try to earn a more encompassing role in the lives of their children. We should all sing their praise, not listen to the histerical elements amonong us!
PAS is real and it hurts children for years. They are denied the love of a parent and often of that whole side of the family; they struggle with guilt for their bad behavior later on and they have emotional scars from years of believing they were abandoned, when that was a false impression planted in their heads. Some PAS perpetrators are men, but over 2/3 are women. Shame on us!!!
Let’s stop the madness and get real.
Sandra, these are very cogent critiques. I agree with you that the malignancy of parental alienation behavior exists; however, I agree with the ultimate conclusion that it not be included in the DSM-V as a separate mental health disorder.
Acts of parental alienation require mental health intervention, but they need not exist co-extensively with other disorders. They can occur as a result of an existing mental health disorder or occur to a lesser extent than would be diagnosed as a disorder.
This topic is the subject of an excellent article published in Family Court Review Journal article in January 2010. The article is titled “Children Resisting Post-Separation Contact with a Parent: Concepts, Controversies, and Conundrums” by Barbara Jo Fidler and Nicholas Bala. I highly recommend this article to anyone interested in this topic.
Parental alienation belongs in the DSM. The mental health profession’s bible is full of short-term relational and adjustment issues that are not Axis 1 mental illnesses.
It is important to remember that the DSM is an evolving document. At one time eating disorders were not in the DSM. Today they’re listed. Conversely, homosexuality was once listed in the DSM as deviant behavior. Thankfully, a more enlightened generation of mental health professionals corrected that mistake. It took DSM editors more than 80 years to include Tourette’s Syndrome in the manual after the patterns of behavior that make up Tourette’s were first identified. I have no doubt that parental alienation will one day have its own diagnosis code within the mental health community.
It is ironic, however, that the same mental health professionals who don’t believe parental alienation belongs in the DSM have no problems accepting clients dealing with this destructive family dynamic. The professionals just use a different DSM code in order to submit their bills to the insurance companies.