American Psychiatric Association

Updated: APRIL 20, 2020

The American Psychiatric Association is the United States’ main body of qualified and trainee psychiatrists. It is also the world’s largest professional psychiatric organization.

It began in 1844 as the Association of Medical Superintendents of American Institutions for the Insane. It adopted its current name in 1921. The organization holds annual conferences and publishes various books, journals, and pamphlets focused on a range of psychiatric topics. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is among its key publications.

The American Psychiatric Association is known by the acronym, APA.

More About American Psychiatric Association

The APA provides guidelines that help psychiatrists deliver the best care to patients. These guidelines govern how many medications psychiatrists should prescribe at once, when drug therapy is appropriate, and what kind of advice they should give. Its members conduct independent research to help psychiatrists understand their field and how to help patients improve their mental health.

The APA has helped reduce the stigma of mental illness. It also promotes the rights and treatment of people struggling with mental health concerns. Its resources help people dealing with a range of common concerns, such as grief and relationship problems.

The organization isn’t without controversy though. The APA has strong ties to the pharmaceutical industry. Some people feel this sees some APA representatives promoting certain drugs and downplaying their side effects.

Throughout history, the APA has also viewed certain behaviors we now recognize as healthy as mental illnesses or disorders. Healthy fetishes and homosexuality were once condemned by the APA. This viewpoint led to unnecessary treatments and shame. For example, the APA now condemns conversion therapy for homosexuality. It no longer believes being gay is not a mental disorder. Therefore, it does not believe therapy that changes or suppresses sexuality is appropriate. In fact, it believes conversation therapy is harmful. However, the APA classified homosexuality as a mental disorder until 1973. As such, many psychiatrists treated gay people as if they had a mental illness for generations.

Gender dysphoria is still categorized as a mental disorder by the APA. Some people believe this pathologizes being transgender and creates guilt and shame. The classification may be reviewed in time. However, now some psychiatrists may feel justified trying to change or suppress the feelings of gender dysphoric patients.


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