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Increase in autism is due to changes in diagnosis, study claims

BMJ 2004; 328 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.328.7436.364-b (Published 12 February 2004) Cite this as: BMJ 2004;328:364

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Autism, a politically correct diagnosis?

The Oxford English Reference Dictionary (1995) defines "Autism" as a
mental condition characterized by complete self absorption and a reduced
ability to respond to or communicate with the outside world. Dorland's
Medical Dictionary (27th Ed.) however also includes conditions such as
fantasies, delusions, hallucinations, egocentrism and a state where
subjective thinking lacks objectivity and connection with reality, where
self often predominates to the total exclusion of that which is not self.
It seems that there is no clear definition of autism and so the word lends
itself to be used to describe varied mental conditions.

Autism sounds less pathological and offending, than many of the other
dignoses used in the past and therefore is a politically correct
diagnosis. Movies such as "Rainman" also played a part in enhancing the
image of autism as an innocent disorder. I wonder if this is the main
reason that the diagnosis of Autism has increased.

Competing interests:
None declared

Competing interests: No competing interests

16 February 2004
Pramod P. Bapat
Consultant Anaesthetist
Arrowe Park Hospital (Wirral), U.K.