Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders

Updated: JULY 6, 2020

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is a book which defines and classifies mental disorders. Its first edition was released by the American Psychiatric Association in 1952. Since then, it has been updated several times to reflect new thinking about mental health and preferred treatment options.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is often known simply by the acronym DSM. The edition number may also be incorporated into the acronym. For example, the book’s fifth edition is also known as DSM–5.

More About Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders lists the symptoms for each mental health disorder it covers. It includes the gender usually impacted by the condition, the typical age the condition develops, common treatment options and their effects, and relevant statistics. It also notes whether the condition is an anxiety disorder, bipolar or related disorder, depressive disorder, feeding and eating disorder, obsessive-compulsive or related disorder, and personality disorder.

All the information in the book is meant to help psychiatrists, psychologists, and other mental and physical health professionals working with people with mental health issues diagnose and treat their patients better. They also use the book to determine how much their patients should pay for their services and provide insurance companies with the money they need to process claims. The DSM is also a valuable research tool for anyone with an interest in mental health.

The DSM aims to reflect the most current research on mental health. However, as this is an ever-evolving field, some have questioned the book’s information. While the DSM is regularly revised, a substantial amount of time can pass between revisions. During this time, new mental disorders may be recognized and others determined to not be mental health issues at all. For example, homosexuality was mentioned as a mental health disorder in earlier editions.

Critics also state that the DSM contains many mental health disorders with overlapping symptoms. This can make providing a definitive diagnosis using the book difficult, even for trained professionals. In addition, it notes that even though the book has a comprehensive number of mental health disorders, it does not offer any suggestions about their causes. Without this information, it can be difficult for professionals to provide meaningful treatment. Some critics also say the DSM is culturally biased and does not consider what behaviors and thoughts may be normal outside of certain mainstream cultures.


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