Psychiatric Pasts: Looking Back in Female Sexual Dysfunction and the Diagnostic and Statistical Manuals


Katherine Angel
(Queen Mary University of London)

Female Sexual Dysfunction’ is a term that was introduced into the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) in its third edition of 1980. The DSM-III is widely glossed as having marked a turning away from psychoanalytic psychiatry in the United States, and towards a newly biological psychiatry, and subsequent DSMs have become crucial for insurance reimbursement in the USA, and play a significant role in coordinating international research and global clinical trials. A significant critique of successive DSMs, including the most recent DSM-V of 2013, has become widespread in the last ten years, focusing in particular on the allegedly unscientific nature of the APA’s decision-making, of its close relationship to the pharmaceutical industry, and on the worldwide exportation of American psychiatric thought. A specifically feminist critique of ‘FSD’ has also emerged and gained significant visibility. I will draw out how both historical and critical accounts of the DSMs tend to unquestioningly reproduce a narrative about the DSM’s history that is in fact insisted upon by the DSM itself: namely, that of the sharp break between psychoanalytic and ‘scientific’ psychiatry. Failing to question this narrative leads, I will argue, to a problematically skewed reading of Western psychiatric history, of the contents of the DSM itself, and of the potential for critiques of ‘FSD’.

Click here to listen to podcast

Thursday, 5th February 2015, 12.45 pm – 2.00 pm
Venue: Jerry Morris B, Tavistock Place