Saturday, March 17, 2012

Retirement Issues — The New Crazy

The psychiatrists’ bible for diagnosing mental illness is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), which came out in 1952. A revision is issued every twelve to twenty years. A new one is coming next year, and apparently it’s a doozy. Time claims: “It will literally redefine what is normal.”

As a service to my fellow retirees, I’ve looked into the behaviors that will now be considered abnormal. There may be 50 ways to leave your lover, but according to the new DSM, there are 350 ways to say you’re crazy. That means 350 diagnoses for which your psychiatrist can bill your insurance company.

The first thing to watch out for is an “irritable mood.” If you’re in one for more than a week and it can’t be explained by a medical condition or by drugs you’re taking, you could be diagnosed as manic or depressive. I don’t know about you, but I’ve reached a point in life where there’s not much that doesn’t irritate me. They should just stamp “subject to irritable moods” on my driver’s license.

A trip to the supermarket can leave me cranky for days. It might be the way they bagged the order. (How hard can it be to put the cans under the things that go squish?) Or maybe they forgot to ask for my coupons (and in a senior moment I forgot to present them). And it’s Katy bar the door if I didn’t get my senior discount! I’ll be called manic as sure as there’s little green apples.

Another condition to be careful of is “loss of interest.” Once again, duh! After 66 years as a type A personality, how long do they really think I can stay interested in anything that isn’t dipped in chocolate or poured from a wine bottle? According to the new DSM, if I don’t find something that tickles my fancy within a two-week period, I could be sucked into a “major depressive episode.”

Oh, lordy, I’m doomed. Binge eating (now a disorder) will be defined as “eating until feeling uncomfortably full.” My mother made us clean our plates at each meal. “Think of the starving children in China.” I always eat until I’m feeling uncomfortably full. How else are you supposed to know when to stop? It’s kind of like drinking wine until you have a pleasant buzz on.

I will spare you the details of Internet addiction, sex addiction and female orgasmic disorder. I’m doing this under the assumption that those problems are of more interest to a younger audience. Or at least that your psychiatrist will assume that they are, so you won’t need to address a diagnosis for any of them.

Many DSM diagnoses are psychoses or neuroses—disorders and episodes. Retirees are more prone to phobias. Actually, retirees tend to be more prone, period, which makes those sessions on the couch a lot easier. My research has uncovered both disorders and phobias for retirees that the new DSM missed.

Do you frequently not know if you’re coming or going? If this occurs more than twice a day or lasts more than ten minutes, you suffer from Bi-directional Disorder. Other signs you have this are not remembering if you were going up or down the stairs or in or out of a room. Likewise if you find yourself standing in front of the refrigerator or a cupboard, door in hand, wondering if you were opening it or closing it. 

A problem that eventually occurs in retirement is Ambivalent Disorder. Sure signs are when a former colleague who is still working describes some office crisis and you realize you simply don’t give a fig. Psychiatrists haven’t yet decided whether to treat this disorder or to celebrate it.

Moving on to retirees’ phobias. You’re likely familiar with two fears related to answering phones in the evening. Robophobia—or as I like to call it, RoboFobo—is the fear of getting one of those automatic sales calls in the middle of dinner. Even worse is Croakaphobia, which sadly becomes more common as we move through retirement. That’s the fear of getting the call that some family member or dear friend has passed away.

The constellation of movement phobias is prevalent in retirees. Klutzaphobia is the fear of bumping into things. Closely related is Stumblaphobia, the fear of tripping over something. When it becomes extreme, it morphs into Tumblaphobia, the fear of falling down.

These disorders and phobias are of major concern to retirees. If we lobby via AARP, we may still be able to get them included in the upcoming revised DRM. If we to have to wait another twelve years for Medicare coverage, we could need more than medication to deal with them. Maybe that’s not such a bad thing. Wine anyone?

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