May 17, 2012 4:11 pm ET - by Carlos Maza
Fox News’ resident anti-LGBT pop psychologist (and licensed psychiatrist) Dr. Keith Ablow announced his resignation from the American Psychiatric Association (APA) last September following widespread condemnation over his comments about the dangers of letting kids watch Chaz Bono on Dancing with the Stars. Appearing on The O’Reilly Factor, Ablow criticized the APA for making frequent revisions to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), asking “what kind of medicine is this?”
On Monday, Ablow continued his anti-APA campaign. In a FoxNews.com column titled “Be wary of the American Psychiatric Association,” Ablow criticized the organization for revisions the group is making to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) and accused the APA of being influenced by special interest groups.
Among Ablow’s examples of the APA’s political pandering: the group’s 1987 decision to declassify “Ego-Dystonic Homosexuality” (EDH) as a mental illness:
Never mind that splicing and dicing the range of human experience into a recipe book of contrived illnesses does damage to the miraculous healing power of empathy, which just happens to be psychiatry’s birthright. Never mind that creating a constantly-evolving dictionary of disorders wrenches the wonderful tools of psychotherapy and psychiatric medications into a realm of fiction that can paralyze them—like, for instance, the time that the American Psychiatric Association removed Ego-Dystonic Homosexuality from the DSM, essentially making the case that people who have sexual impulses they themselves dislike and wish to resist need no help at all and are pretty much normal. Similarly, now, for those with Asperger’s Disorder, which no longer exists as a distinct entity because someone on some committee convinced other people on that committee that it just doesn’t.
So, there. Take two of those, and call me in the morning. [emphasis added]
Those who aren’t familiar with the history of the APA’s treatment of homosexuality might not recognize the significance of Ablow’s comments.
EDH was a diagnosis created in the wake of the APA’s 1973 decision to declassify homosexuality as a mental illness. At the time, it was widely criticized as an attempt to appease those who wanted to continue treating homosexuality as a mental illness in need of treatment.
According to Gregory Herek, professor in the UC David Department of Psychology:
Ego dystonic homosexuality was indicated by: (1) a persistent lack of heterosexual arousal, which the patient experienced as interfering with initiation or maintenance of wanted heterosexual relationships, and (2) persistent distress from a sustained pattern of unwanted homosexual arousal.
This new diagnostic category, however, was criticized by mental health professionals on numerous grounds. It was viewed by many as a political compromise to appease those psychiatrists – mainly psychoanalysts – who still considered homosexuality a pathology. Others questioned the appropriateness of having a separate diagnosis that described the content of an individual's dysphoria. They argued that the psychological problems related to ego-dystonic homosexuality could be treated as well by other general diagnostic categories, and that the existence of the diagnosis perpetuated antigay stigma. [emphasis added]
Moreover, EDH was aggressively promoted by “ex-gay” groups like the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), which attempts to ‘free’ gays and lesbians from their homosexuality. According to the Group for the Advancement of Psychiatry:
Many of those opposed to the diagnosis of EDH had viewed it as a diagnostic relic that had indirectly, if not directly, perpetuated the mental illness model of homosexuality. Removing it was a crucial step in a paradigm shift that would help psychiatry focus on more relevant models and concepts in understanding gay men and lesbians. The change nevertheless remains controversial, and a small group of psychologists and analysts (the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality [NARTH]) continues to argue that homosexuality is a dysfunction and can be corrected. [emphasis added]
In fact, the promotion of EDH is a major component of NARTH’s ‘homosexuality can be cured’ narrative.
Given EDH’s significance in the “ex-gay” and anti-gay community, it’s disturbing to see a member of Fox News’ “Medical A-Team” defending the diagnosis.
The last time he criticized the APA for declassifying EDH as a mental illness, Ablow was comparing homosexuality to pedophilia. And he’s previously asserted that a person’s sexual orientation can be changed by one’s environment, citing the example of prison inmates who engaged in “homosexual behavior” after being incarcerated.
And, of course, there’s Ablow’s notorious track record of claiming – in opposition to every major medical organization in the country – that a person’s gender identity can be influenced by everything from television to nail polish.
Considering his history of extreme anti-gay pseudoscience, it’s not a stretch to imagine that Ablow might share the same views about the pathology – and treatability – of homosexuality that groups like NARTH have become infamous for.
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