Sleep Apnea Is Now A Mental Illness

June 21, 2013 2 min read

CPAP MaskThe Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is, for lack of a better term, the Bible of abnormal psychology. It’s the definitive authoritative text on the classification of mental disorders, and it’s used by pretty much everyone - clinicians, health insurance companies, the legal system, even the government – to ensure that clinicians and patients have the “right” diagnosis when it comes to mental health problems.

The most recent edition of the manual, the DSM-V, was published on May 18, nearly twenty years after the last version. Some of the notable changes include new clinical definitions of Hoarding Disorder (previously considered a symptom of obsessive-compulsive disorder), a classification for Internet addiction, and a re-haul for the diagnostic process for autism. And here’s another big change: if you suffer from sleep apnea, then you suffer from a mental disorder- at least according to the American Psychiatric Association’s standards.

Although sleep apnea is not commonly regarded as a mental illness in the same sense as, say, schizophrenia, the disease can have powerful consequences on mental health. A lack of sleep can be a heavy contributor to stress, anxiety, and depression, and it’s not uncommon for people suffering from disorders such as sleep apnea to seek help from mental health professionals. Sleep apnea will be sub-categorized as an arousal disorder (a condition that causes the sufferer to waken during sleep), distinguishing it from better-known sleep disorders like insomnia and hypersomnia.

The changes come in the wake of criticisms of the language used in the last DSM, which the revisionary board believed put too much emphasis on the presumed causes of symptoms. In the new edition, sleep conditions will be streamlined, and the criteria elucidated, so that people will be able to receive the help they need.

Getting a good’s night sleep is absolutely essential – not just for the body, but for the mind as well. Sleep apnea’s designation as a mental disorder will undoubtedly raise some eyebrows, but nonetheless, the distinction reiterates the importance of catching the disease early – and treating it as directed. If you or a loved one suffer from sleep apnea, be sure to check out our selection of CPAP accessories!