May 17, 2013

From anxiety to Asperger’s, how the DSM is redefining disorders

The "bible" for mental health disorders is getting a much-needed update. It could reshape diagnosis and treatment for many sufferers, and not everyone is happy, writes Wes Mountain at The Citizen.

The DSM-5, the latest revision of the “bible” of mental health disorders, will be issued within days. It’s been 13 years since the last update, and it could have a significant impact on the diagnosis, treatment and funding of a number of currently recognised mental health disorders — from addiction to Asperger’s. But not everyone is happy about it.

The DSM is shorthand for the solemnly titled Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the framework psychiatrists and others in the mental health profession use to diagnose disorders and psychiatric conditions. Developed and published by the American Psychiatric Association, it’s generally considered the definitive text on what constitutes a mental disorder. The current edition is the DSM-IV-TR (text revision) was published in 2000; the new manual will be released at the APA’s annual meeting in San Francisco this weekend.

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9 thoughts on “From anxiety to Asperger’s, how the DSM is redefining disorders

  1. Professor Tournesol

    What is going on at Crikey when an article can’t even include the word ‘sex?’ I can reassure you though that most practising psychiatrists pay very little heed to DSM in everyday practice, it is not particularly clinically relevant. Unfortunately courts ask for DSM diagnoses as do insurance companies, but beyond that it has little clinical utility. The NIMH move to accept funding submissions that don’t use DSM criteria is welcome, and is perhaps the biggest potential advance in psychiatric research for a long time.

  2. Andybob

    Homer: “This isn’t fair! How can you tell who’s sane and who’s insane?”
    Doctor: “Well, we have a very simple method. [stamps Homer’s hand with a stamp that reads “INSANE”] Whoever has that stamp on his hand is insane.”

  3. Shaniq'ua Shardonn'ay

    @Professor Tournesol – crikey uses the word s-x so that when it emails out it’s editions it doesn’t get rejected as spam.
    Don’t read too much into it!!

  4. Jason Whittaker

    Professor Tournesol,

    Words that might not make it through email filters are censored. We endeavour to replace these words once Crikey Insider is published.


  5. Pusscat

    Having had a look at the links Wes has thoughtfully provided, I definitely have to agree with the good Prof T on this.
    DSM will hopefully soon become as irrevelant to clinical interventions as textbooks on phrenology are now.
    With luck, judges and Centrelink will stay up to date with new research developments and nomenclature.

  6. Shaniq'ua Shardonn'ay

    I’d be interested in diagnostic tools other than just asking the patient questions. I don’t know how many sober alcoholics I meet who claim
    Person: “The psychiatrist told me I was Bi-polar – he was so wrong!”
    me: “Did you tell them how much you were drinking”
    Person: “Oh no I lied about that”
    me: facepalm!

  7. kd

    mate, when I did my psychology degree it was DSM III. These days after a fairly short dalliance with the profession many years ago, I’m pretty much out of the loop. OTOH I think and prof sunflower is right, it’s an actuarial document rather than a clinical tool. When I come across friends with apparently non-life threatening psychiatric conditions ( and occasionally for those with apparently life threatening ones) I point them to the work of R.D Laing for an alternative point of view than the biomedical model (while pointing out that the biomedical model of mental illness helps many people).

  8. AR

    Given that it once included (male) homosexuality (lesbians didn’t exist) and nymphomania as illnesses, I wouldn’t use it as toilet paper, for fear of contamination.

  9. Professor Tournesol

    The intentions behind DSM are worthy, but like any exercise like that it’s an extremely flawed compromise. It is a dangerous bok when taken literally. Psychiatrists refer to it as ‘psychiatry for lawyers’.o

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