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A revision of an influential diagnostic manual plans to categorize a wide range of apparently everyday behaviours as mental health disorders, causing considerable controversy in the psychiatric community.

Globe editorial, Feb. 14

Sensitive to such criticism, the American Psychiatric Association is reviewing the latest draft of its fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders with an eye to deleting the following proposed psychological ailments:

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Existential Angst is a relatively common disorder typically manifesting itself in teenagers, philosophy majors and Scandinavian filmmakers. Researchers asked test subjects three key questions: (1) Have you sometimes wondered about the meaning of life? (2) Have you experienced sadness contemplating the ultimate futility of human existence? (3) Did you ever wonder why we're here? Those answering "yes" to two or more of these questions were identified as sufferers.

Pharmaceutical companies are reportedly working on a medication. Most test subjects taking a moderate dose of Apathene reported that, instead of needless worry about pointless metaphysical and ethical questions, they felt what one subject described as "the pleasant warmth of apathy." To date, the only observed side effects are persistent disinterest and intellectual stultification.

Workplace Disinterest is marked by a series of clearly defined symptoms that include on-the-job napping, excessive clock watching, recurrent tardiness and incessant retirement planning. Although difficult to believe that work isn't always a stimulating, life-affirming experience, those afflicted spend their work days waiting only for them to end.

Until recently, there was little hope for these people. But if this disorder is recognized, health insurance coverage may soon be available to millions of sufferers. If nothing else, ongoing psychotherapy will afford these poor individuals a few extra hours a week away from their workplace.

Pollyannaish Posturing is marked by an inability to see the dark side of anything. No matter how grey the day or bleak the circumstances, those afflicted will insist on seeing the sunny side of any situation. To these sad individuals, every cloud has a silver lining and every glass is at least half full. These poor folks are often saddled with accompanying physical ailments such as sore facial muscles from incessant smiling and repeated bruising inflicted by those they've repeatedly urged to "look on the bright side" or "put on a happy face."

Pointless Social Chatter is so common that it's likely that someone in your family or social circle suffers from this annoying condition. If you're subjected to the trivial conversational ramblings of someone close to you, it's likely the person in question is such a sufferer. It's hoped that extensive talk therapy can help alleviate the symptoms. At the very least, the hours spent in psychotherapy are hours that others won't be subjected to the inanities spouted by these individuals.

Dysapologia is thought to be a neuro-chemical ailment marked by an inability to apologize for sleights, injuries, oversights or mistakes. This disorder usually manifests itself through a long-standing failure to say "I'm sorry" in obvious situations of fault, and is more prevalent among politicians, media personalities and recalcitrant three-year-olds. So far, it has been highly resistant to psychotherapy or medication. To date, the only known cure has been maturity or electoral defeat.

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David Martin, an Ottawa-based humorist, is the author of Dare to be Average .

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