“Madness” no more: How definitions of mental illness have changed over the years

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By Vera H-C Chan and Claudine Zap

In 1952, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders weighed in at a wispy 50 pages. In 1994, DSM-IV numbered 943 pages. The DSM-5 will actually be less than that — still, when comparing the versions, “one thing you’re struck with right away is the increase of diagnostic categories,” says David Baker, director of the Archives of the History of American Psychology at the University of Akron. “It’s largely a kind of a mirror on the culture… It’s not purely objective.”

Not surprisingly, well before the DSM came into existence, respected intellectuals were espousing psychological theories on why females went into hysterics, the sickness that made slaves want to run from their masters, and the upper-class ailment triggered by hard work and social upheaval. Here’s a look at disorders, past and present, that fell out of fashion, got caught up in other illnesses, or changed its name.