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Everything You Always Wanted to Know About the Diagnostic Manual of Mishegas (DMOM)

An Interview With the Authors

By Lloyd Sederer, Michael Friedman, and Jay Neugeboren

Published May 15, 2013

Now that The Diagnostic Manual of Mishegas (The DMOM) has been released, we authors have graciously provided what we consider to be a Charlie Rose(nberg)-type interview about the genesis of their manual.

Why? Because the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5—the “Bible of Psychiatry”—at 1,000 pages and retailing for $160, will appear on May 18. We thought the public would want a lighter version, in more ways than one.

So, unhindered by any reputable scientific advisory group or professional review process, we produced The Diagnostic Manual of Mishegas. At 74 pages and selling for a mere $10, how can you go wrong with this alternative to the DSM-5?

The DMOM is based upon a newly-discovered document by the brilliant if frequently farmisht Dr. Sol Farblondget, M.D., Ph.D., PTA).

We imagined sitting down across the table at Katz’s Delicatessen with Charlie Rose(nberg), from the Lower East Side of New York and known for his unsparing command of a conversation, asking the questions you want answered:

 

CR: What is “mishegas“?

Mishegas is the Yiddish word for crazy, but much kinder and gentler. We’re all a little mishugah. As Gershem Orwell wrote in his book Funny Farm, “All men and women are mishugah, but some men and women are more mishugah than others.”

 

CR: Why bother having a manual that uses Yiddish diagnostic terms?

To your probing question, we answer a question with a question, as psychiatrists are known to do: Why not a manual using Yiddish diagnostic terms? Who can understand the hundreds of diagnostic categories in the DSM, phenomenological subgroups and course specifiers, notwithstanding numerical codes and factitious and dissociative disorders that not even the people who devote their lives to can agree upon? But Yiddish, ah Yiddish! Yiddish is a time-honored source of wisdom into the vicissitudes of human emotion. Just as an Inuit has 40 words for snow, so Yiddish has even more words for the forms of mishegas, as you will see in the DMOM.

For each category of mishegas, having learned from Leo Rosten (The Joys of Yiddish), what makes for a bestselling book, we include an anecdote or joke that can be used, generally, in mixed company.

For instance: Farmisht means a little confused, or befuddled.

An elderly man walking along Collins Avenue in Miami Beach stops another elderly man. “Listen,” he asks, “Was it you or your brother who died last week?”

 

CR: You say your book was based on a document discovered by a man named Farblondget. But isn’t farblondget a nervous condition in your manual?

o Yes, and with a name like Farblonget, our Dr. Sol was destined to become the inventor of a Yiddish system of diagnosis, much as a doctor we once knew—by the name of Goldfinger—was destined to become a proctologist.

 

CR: Does your manual have diagnostic categories like those in the DSM?

We use the thoroughly comprehensible distinction that Dr. Farblondget made. We simply divide all mental disorders into two categories—mishegas major and mishegas minor.

 

CR: Can you give us examples?

With pleasure, though not with as much pleasure as a good hot pastrami sandwich delivers. A person who has conversations with God without permission from his rabbi, priest, or health insurance provider probably has mishegas major.

 

CR: And mishegas minor?

All of human life comes under the heading of mishegas minor.

Take tsuris addicts, who are lifetime adherents to suffering about everything and anything. They know that life is tragic—in fact, that even every silver lining has a cloud. For example, four women are sitting on a park bench in Miami Beach. The first one says, “Oy.” The second one says, “Oy vay.” The third one says, “Oy vay iz mir.” And the fourth one says, “Ladies, I thought we promised not to talk about our children today.”

 

CR: So does that mean there is only one condition under mishegas minor: mishegas minor?

Are you mishugah? Of course not. We provide readers with the crucial distinctions among many common human forms of suffering such as, farmisht, ferdrayt, fartootzed, and farblondget. Because we are comprehensive (and needed to fill more pages to charge $10) we also have a list of conditions we call “Cockamamy Conditions of Character.”

 

CR: Such as?

Schmuck. Everyone knows what a schmuck is, especially if you live in New York City or Hollywood. But do you know the difference between a schmuck and a putz? How about schlemiel, schlimazel, or schmuck-with-earlaps. Our DMOM contains an exhaustive, but not exhausting, overview of shades-of-schmuck (not to be confused with the forthcoming 50 Shades of Schmuck), inspired by a schmuck we once knew who kept asking:

“Why am I a schmuck? Why am I a schmuck?”—What a schmuck, right?

And we also have descriptions and tell-all anecdotes of a wide range of mishegas including yentas, momzers, chalariahs, shnorrers, and nogoodniks.

 

CR: Does the DMOM have anything to offer to those of us who are concerned about aging?

Are you kidding? Of course! Alter kockers, for example, and alter kockerdom, receive major attention. “The truth,” Sol Farblondget has often said, “is that being an alter kocker ain’t such a bad thing, especially if you compare it to being a teenager.”

 

CR: And where can I get your book?

We brought you a copy but we sold it to someone in the cafeteria when we were looking for a bagel. But it’s online at Amazon.com and is guaranteed to make you plotz with laughter, to turn your guilt into gelt, and your kvetching into kvelling.

This article originally appeared in the Huffington Post.

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The views and opinions expressed on this website are solely those of the authors and do not represent those of the Department of Epidemiology, the Mailman School of Public Health, or Columbia University.