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Mental health: British shrinks beg to differ

New American definitions of illness provoke controversy among British mental health professionals
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Sir Laurence Olivier as Hamlet. Was the Prince of Denmark crazy? or just in need of some psychotherapy? (AFP/Getty Images)

From this side of the Atlantic, the U.S. increasingly looks like a loony bin. The Republican debates may be the best reality show ever invented but they do not enhance America's reputation abroad for being a sane, stable society.

No surprise then that health-care professionals in Britain are pushing back against the new edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, the handbook of psychiatric diagnosis, published by the American Psychiatric Association. It sets the international standard but to many British mental health professionals it goes way overboard in classifying behaviors as clinically ill.

DSM-5 is due to be published in May. Peter Kinderman, professor of clinical psychology at the University of Liverpool, told The Guardian, he disagreed with the new category of "oppositional defiant disorder." He called it dubious. "Since my children say, 'no, you are an idiot, dad' repeatedly to me, by definition my children are ill."

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A human brain is displayed in a museum at the @Bristol attraction on March 8, 2011 in Bristol, England. (Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

If you like numbers (and who doesn't), then check out this fascinating chart from the Economist.

According to a study published this week in European Neuropsychopharmacology, 38 percent of all Europeans suffered from a mental illness in 2010.

That works out to about 165 million people. 

Which mental health afflictions do Europeans most commonly suffer?

Here's a quick rundown of the data, which came from a study of the 27 countries in the European Union, plus Norway, Switzerland and Iceland:

  • Depression tops the list. More than 30 million suffered from it in 2010, or 6.7 percent of the total.
  • Some 22 million people reported specific phobias such as fear of spiders, the Economist notes. 
  • More than 20 million had somatoform disorders (hypochondrias, persistent pain disorders, etc.).
  • About 12 million people suffered from sleep apnea, 10 million had social phobias and 8 million had agoraphobia (a panic disorder related to the fear of outdoors, bridges and being outside alone). 

Here's the full list:

Source: The Economist

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