DSM 140.6: A Manual of Ironman-related Psychiatric Disorders


by Lee Gruenfeld

If you’ve ever been involved with psychiatry or psychology – from either side of the couch – then you’re familiar with the reference book to end all reference books, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, known fondly the world over as the DSM.

This monumental work is more than just a list of conditions; it represents how the mental health community looks at the world, which is important, because how mental health professionals look at the world defines whether people are officially off their rockers or not. And that changes every time the DSM is updated, which is once every few years. For example, a good deal of my collegiate depravity turns out not to have been my fault at all, seeing as how I was unknowingly suffering from “Hyperactive Sexual Desire Disorder" (billing code 302.71. Don’t take my word for it…look it up.)

Along those lines, there is good news for readers of Ironman.com. Turns out that the 2013 edition of the DSM, set for release on October 12 (go figure), has an entire subsection devoted to the variety of afflictions known to beset Ironman triathletes. You’ve known about these all along, but now that they’re official and have names and billing codes, your insurer will happily underwrite the curative therapies your loved ones so desperately wish you’d undergo.

The DSM is not an easy read for non-professionals, so let me highlight a few of the more common disorders in plain English.

Shimanonucleosis: an imaginary disease the sufferer attributes to his bike when the engine is not performing well; (not to be confused with shimanorexia, an obsessive desire to trim as much weight as possible from one’s bike)

Oakleydoaklia,  also known as buypolar disorder: the conviction that wearing the same accessories as your favorite pros will make you race as well as they do; a dangerous condition in that it makes the sufferer especially vulnerable to commercial predators skilled in the ancient art of bullshido

Poolimia: An umbrella term covering a number of anti-social behaviors during swim workouts, including dipsomania, the habit of diving into someone else’s lane with no warning, and dyslapsia, swimming in the middle of a crowded lane instead of along the lane lines.

Splizophrenia: occurs when the sounds running through your head shift from endless repetitions of “You Are My Sunshine” to endless recitations of the exact time of every race you’ve run since the fourth grade.

Trekinosis: rabid bicycle brand loyalty triggered by a sudden influx of sponsorship money

Idiosynchrissie: compulsion to speak in an upper-class British accent when anywhere near a podium or camera

Triathlon-specific Phobias:

Angoraphobia: refusal to wear warm clothes even if it’s twenty below for fear of increasing your wind resistance

Hydrophobia: the reason duathlons were invented

Klaustrophobia: feeling of futility owing to the profound conviction that the Germans are going to win anyway so why bother trying?

Aracknophobia: Inability to walk away from your bike prior to the swim start because of the overwhelming feeling that a) you forgot something vital in your T1 bag, or 2) your tires are going to explode as soon as the sun comes up.

Speedophobia: the fear that you look like a complete idiot in those swim shorts

Post-Kona Requalifying Compulsion: usually strikes people who swore to their spouses “on our children’s eyes” that they were only going to do one Ironman and then quit.

Splatagoria: unfortunate consequence of improper nutrition that tends to strike near TV cameras and finish lines

Gulimia: rare but debilitating refusal to eat anything that doesn’t come out of a tear-off foil packet

Startline pseudokinesis: affecting primarily pro athletes, a mass delusion that someone is deliberately moving the start line prior to the cannon, requiring the sufferer to creep forward lest he/she get left behind; shouted threats of disqualification have no apparent effect on this condition

Bikeochondria: persistent feeling that there is something not quite right  with your bike; acute bikeochondria is diagnosed when you can’t even tell your bike mechanic what you think is wrong, even though you know something is, and how the hell can he possibly not hear it? (if left untreated, can lead to sufferer hurling bicycle over cliff or into ocean, known as a complete bikeotic breakdown)

Markolepsy: popular delusion among non-Ironman athletes characterized by the repeated insistence that “I could do one of those if I just trained.”

Ergonomia: the belief that pure water is poison

Semidistance inferiority complex (billing code 70.3); a vague, free-floating feeling of unworthiness following a race of any distance less than a full Ironman. Sufferers consistenly report dreams in which Mike Reilly suddenly appears from behind potted plants screaming, “You are not an Ironman!” at the top of his lungs while close friends and family shrink away in shame and confusion.

Lepidopterhythmia: the feeling that a gaggle of winged insects has entered the sufferer’s digestive system; difficult to study in detail as the condition tends to disappear instantly with any loud, sudden noise, such as that made by a starting gun, at which point many fall victim to splatagoria (see above).

Abugrabmea: generally associated with mass starts, the feeling that everyone in your vicinity is trying to drown you

Awetism: a common pathologicial condition in which the sufferer is compelled to label everything, from french fries to the Apollo 11 moonshot, as “awesome”

Old-timer’s disease: irrational frustration over the inability to achieve the same times as one did six age groups ago

Catatonia: glassy-eyed fugue state exhibited by stroke victims, POWs and athletes in the med tent

Pedal envy: strikes without warning as the sufferer looks around during check-in and bitterly regrets not having spent twenty-five hundred smackers on those Di2 shifters

Adult Onset Hyperactivity Disorder: DELETED. This condition was reclassified as “perfectly normal” in 1978.

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