UNDATED (WKOW) -- Health insurers and taxpayers should be paying close attention to changing mental health guidelines.
A task force of health professionals are working on new ways to define everything from alcoholism to autism, and some worry it could drastically alter the number of people diagnosed with various disorders.
"It is what I do to have fun. It's a good time," said Luke Bodnar, a UW-Madison senior.
Like most college students, he likes to party with his friends.
"I think you do it for fun when you're in college and when you get out in the real world you're done," he said.
A Harvard School of Public Health study shows 31 percent of college students abuse alcohol, while six percent have a problem with alcoholism.
But new health guidelines would put them all in the same category with mild, moderate or severe alcohol use disorder.
An Australian study suggests that would increase the number of people diagnosed with alcoholism by 60 percent.
"There is an ongoing effort to try to define criteria for when is somebody having a disorder likely to impact their life," said Shel Gross, the director of public policy for Mental Health America of Wisconsin.
That's the goal as the American Psychiatric Association revises the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or the D.S.M.
It guides professionals treating mental disorders and helps determine whether insurers will pay for treatment.
"The tension around trying to characterize what's happening and the reimbursement thing creates controversy," Gross said.
Some parents are worried the D.S.M.'s revised definition of autism will leave some who are diagnosed with the disorder now, out of luck when it comes to state benefits.
Experts worry about the opposite with the broader alcoholism definition that could inflate statistics and cause a problem with scarce resources for treatment.
"If you're trying to cover this whole broader spectrum, will that limit the amount of money we have available for people most severely affected?" Gross questioned.
Bodnar says he doesn't think a new definition will make a difference.
"It doesn't change what people do. It changes how they're classified maybe."
This is the fifth revision of the D.S.M. It is scheduled to be released in May 2013.
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