After Eleven Years, the DSM-5 Is Finally Finished

After eleven years, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) has updated the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM)

Richard Masoner

After eleven years, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) has updated the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). This is the fifth version of the DSM (called the DSM-5), and it’s been in the works for years. Scientific American explains how this DSM is a bit different:

The APA is now working on the fifth version of the hefty tome, slated for publication in May 2013. Because the DSM-IV was largely similar to its predecessor, the DSM-5 embodies the first substantial change to psychiatric diagnosis in more than 30 years. It introduces guidelines for rating the severity of symptoms that are expected to make diagnoses more precise and to provide a new way to track improvement. The DSM framers are also scrapping certain disorders entirely, such as Asperger’s syndrome, and adding brand-new ones, including binge eating and addiction to gambling.

Scientific American also has a roundup of some of the more controversial changes to the DSM. For instance: Hoarding is now officially a diagnosable disorder in its own right. (Previously, it was considered part of obsessive-compulsive disorder.) If symptoms of depression come on soon after the loss of a loved one, the old DSM recommend waiting two months, rather than two weeks, to diagnose the condition and prescribe medication. The new version eliminates that “bereavement exclusion.” Asperger’s, autistic disorder and related conditions now all fall under one “autism spectrum disorder.”

Each of these changes comes with a suite of debates and controversies. The APA announced the near-complete changes by saying:

There has been much more public interest and media scrutiny of DSM-5 than any previous revisions. This reflects greater public awareness and media interest in mental illness, as well as widespread use of the Internet and social media. To facilitate this transparent process, APA created a Web site ( where preliminary draft revisions were available for the public to examine, critique, and comment on. More than 13,000 Web site comments and 12,000 additional comments from e-mails, letters, and other forms of communication were received. Members of the DSM-5 work groups reviewed the feedback submitted to the Web site and, where appropriate, made modifications in their proposed diagnostic criteria. We believe that DSM-5 reflects our best scientific understanding of psychiatric disorders and will optimally serve clinical and public health needs. Our hope is that the DSM-5 will lead to more accurate diagnoses, better access to mental health services, and improved patient outcomes.

Anyone can download a copy of the major changes to the manual here.

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