A short editorial piece by James Bradshaw in the current issue (Jan/Feb) of the National Psychologist discusses the trial of a 16-year-old male who killed four people and severely injured two others while driving under the influence of Valium (diazepam) and alcohol. He had stolen the alcohol from a store earlier, and his blood alcohol level was three times the legal adult limit. He was driving 70 mph in a 40 mph zone at the time of the incident.
Prosecutors had asked for 20 years imprisonment (the maximum sentence), but instead the sentence was 10 years’ probation.
What’s interesting is the defense:
“Great furor stemmed from a defense psychologist’s describing the youth as a victim of affluenza – being cushioned by the money of wealthy parents to the point he never understood the consequences of his actions.
G. Dick Miller, PhD, a private practice clinical psychologist in Bedford, Texas, has since said he regrets using the term because of the uproar it created.”
It’s tempting to say: But there’s no such diagnosis in DSM-5! Think again.
On page 708, you’ll find:
“Other Specified Mental Disorder 300.9
This category applies to presentations in which symptoms characteristic of a mental disorder that cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning predominate but do not meet the full criteria for any specific mental disorder. The other specified mental disorder category is used in situations in which the clinician chooses to communicate the specific reason that the presentation does not meet the criteria for any specific mental disorder. This is done by recording ‘other specified mental disorder’ followed by the specific reason.”
There it is: “make up your own diagnosis.” The only requirement being that the problem causes “…clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning…” [emphases added]
And as everyone knows, having parents throw buckets of money at one during one’s formative years stunts social development, and saps occupational motivation.
Voila! It’s like pulling rabbits from hats.